Cathy Daley, "Untitled," 2002, pastel on vellum, 75" x 23.5".
By Jennifer MacLeod
Deftly, with humour and affection, Toronto artist Cathy Daley creates whispers of the female form in black pastel upon translucent white vellum. Her images are exaggerated, impossibly thin renderings that distort stereotypes of female beauty with the tension of an elastic band stretched to its limits. Beneath the beauty of these iconographic images is a long history of exploitation and merchandising of the female form. Daley's recent drawings of glamourous gowns, inspired by images in high-fashion magazines, were mostly uninhabited by a body, yet they wittily embodied ideals of femininity. In her new collection, Daley depicts animated female legs and stilettoed feet, posing, twirling, standing, swanning, sprawling. Critic Renee Baert notes that the appeal of Daley's images is counterbalanced by resistance to their allure. "This ambivalence finds an echo within feminist thought, between its forceful critique of the fashion industry and the recognition of fashion as an object of pleasure, an embodiment of fantasy and a vehicle of play." A show of Daley's work is at Calgary's Newzones Gallery in March 2003.