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Susan Bozic is picture perfect 

Carl is a catch, if you ignore the fact that he's a mannequin. Artist Susan Bozic talks about The Dating Portfolio.

Susan Bozic is stuck at the border, on her way from Vancouver to Seattle, where she'll catch a flight the next day to Aspen.

But Bozic's not going to ski the slopes among stars and celebrities. (After all, it's the first week of July.) An exhibition of her work, The Dating Portfolio, is on at an Aspen gallery. It's also showing here, at Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery.

Her trip inverts the jet-setting, glamourous life in the same way as the 15 images in The Dating Portfolio, which depicts Carl's wooing and wowing of a character known as Carl's Girlfriend (a role assumed in the photographs by Bozic, who changes clothes, not costumes or characters a la Cindy Sherman). The series questions the thinking that "if we have an attractive partner, or if we have certain material possessions, we'll be happy automatically," explains Bozic. "I had to show the standards: the movie, the cafe, the dinner," she says. "But I also had to show things people could identify with but haven't had the opportunity to do."

Carl has means. He's got the private plane, the boat, the place. He can afford to take his girlfriend to the latest resto. He has styled hair and a mean set of abs. It's all there, illustrated in colour, detail and deliberately, elaborately designed scenes.

"Sometimes we don't know why we want certain things, or why we're influenced by certain things," says Bozic. "If we look at our desires and our wants, we should question them. Are they solely from us---do they originate from us?---or are they influenced by outside sources?"

That Carl is a mannequin works well in articulating the query, but not for the reason first thought. The viewer quickly moves past Carl's styled and toned vacuity to consider---linger on---Carl's Girlfriend, the embodiment of the blissfully unaware (of herself and of her boyfriend's plastic persona) partner.

"Women are from an early age read those stories, the Cinderella stories and the Snow White stories," says Bozic. "It tends to be this scenario of this Prince Charming sweeping them off their feet and the idea of happily ever after."

With The Dating Portfolio, her work has shifted from black and white to colour, animal to human taxidermy, so to speak. The photographer researched online, scrolling through page after page (hundreds) of mannequin models, to find Carl, the man to make the fantasy come true.

"There's an element of luxury because again we're being sold the ideal when we're watching TV or looking at magazines and newspapers." There's no chores, doing dishes, laundry. Carl doesn't rip a fart or get drunk and crash on the couch, smothering a slice of pizza. "Everything is perfect in those images---they're cleaned up."

"They're all labour-intensive, if I could put it that way," Bozic says of the photographs. After coming up with the concept, she had to scout locations, complete test shots, buy and borrow props and clothes (Vancouver's movie industry meant supplies were in abundance) and then do the shoot.

"I had to get a boat. I didn't own one and didn't know anyone who owned one." That was an example of a time when she had to rely on the "generosity of strangers."

Of course, everything could go awry in the next series, the continuation of The Dating Portfolio, which Bozic is currently completing. It picks up after the last frame, when Carl asks his girlfriend to move in with him. Conjuring soap operas or Hollywood romances, Bozic says, "It's my version of a cliffhanger."

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