Susan Bozic’s newest series, The Dating Portfolio , explores the commercially driven desire for ‘happily ever after’ through witty large-scale photographs. In elaborate Cindy Sherman-like tableaux, Bozic poses herself as leading lady opposite Carl, ‘the perfect man.’ Carl and his girlfriend live the idyllic life of a credit card advertisement, full of privilege, happiness and romance. The fact that Carl is a lifeless mannequin could almost be overlooked. As Bozic says, “Carl is the perfect man…He’s young, he’s tall, he’s fit, he’s successful, he’s romantic, he’s attentive. Carl’s girlfriend is in bliss. There’s nothing wrong with him except he’s fake, but she doesn’t quite see that because she’s blinded by her love.”
Taking nearly two years to create, this series grows from Bozic’s previous black and white baroque-style images of luxuriously staged taxidermy. The Dating Portfolio reflects a similar aesthetic of pristine artificiality, but the gothic romanticism of her previous work is replaced by undertones of self-mocking humor resulting in what Bozic calls “The Club Med Look.” In the series, Bozic was able to continue her explorations of fabricated worlds first inspired by her work with the theatre and cinema. But, by including herself in the tableaux, Bozic gives up a measure of control over the final image and further evolves as an artist. This growth can be seen in the multi-layered nature of the images: at first attractive and easily palatable, with a playful sweetness that draws viewers in, the photographs quickly become cloying and full of troubling questions upon closer examination. How often are we simply playing roles in our daily lives? How can a mannequin so easily become a surrogate for a human being? Are we being blinded by love? Why are we taught by society that a perfect partner will bring us happiness? Bozic reveals that the performances and psychological manipulation needed to enact movie-like romances actually oppose healthy happiness: “…It’s a lot of pressure on men to perform as that type of person – a Prince Charming as opposed to a real human being. It’s not fair for any of us.”
Through this series, Bozic explores the impossible hopes and expectations perpetuated by our media-saturated society. The recent boom in reality television dating shows and Internet dating websites that promise happiness through true love show how ingrained fairy-tale roles are in the North American psyche. The fact that viewers instantly recognize the scenarios, locations and hopes found in The Dating Portfolio attests to the longevity of commercial desires. Even while we laugh at the absurdity of Carl and his girlfriend, deep down, a part of us still desires the fantasy we see in the superficial image. of Carl and his girlfriend, deep down, a part of us still desires the fantasy we see in the superficial image.