By Betty Ann Jordan, Toronto Life – February 2005

Ray Caesar describes his digitally drawn depictions of pale, saucer-eyed girl-women as “images of the hidden part of ourselves.” After working at a hospital with a forensic photographer who documented victims of child abuse, the Toronto artist turned to painting to exorcise his anxieties. Over time, he switched to a 3-D computer sculpting program, producing simulated “angels” (as he calls them). Celestial being they may be, but deeply ambivalent ones; some uncomfortably recall images of JonBenet Ramsey. Sleeping Study is part kick-ass heroine, part dead darling: a child in a bat girl mask sleeping for-an eternity?-on a pink satin pillow. Merchant Study shows another translucent lovely, in a blowsy silk gown, who wouldn’t have been out of place in one of Caesar’s favorite 18th-century French genre paintings (where every shepherdess is a gamine nymphet). This lass, however, is of a certain liberty and agency, insouciantly smoking a clay pipe. Beneath the artist’s mannered modishness is an intriguing response to tween girls’ simultaneously defensive and offensive role playing. Caesar would seem to be on a quest for his own feminine principle. So what if his anima (Manifestation, above) looks like Archie’s Veronica in a flesh skirt? -Betty Ann Jordan

Caesar’s prints are part of Pulp, an eclectic show of works on paper by six mostly New York-based artists, chosen for their unique takes on contemporary visual culture. This is Caesar’s first Canadian exhibition; his work is also showing in New York. Feb. 12 to March 6. Free. Lonsdale Gallery, 410 Spadina Rd., 416-487-8733, www.lonsdalegallery.com.

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