Every artist gets their share of bad reviews. If the criticism is constructive, we shouldn't mind them. Not everyone has to 'get' what we're trying to accomplish and even if they do, they don't have to like it. Besides, works don't always succeed. When that happens, part of the critic's function is to keep us honest.
I like to think of Ashley Crawford as a friend. He has come to most of my shows over the years and has always been blunt with me about work of mine he doesn't like. At the opening of PORNO, he told me he didn't like The Lin Triptych and that it shouldn't have been there. He also told me that he thought "99 per cent of the show was very strong" and worked well. He even conceded there were "two or three images he would like to live with". For the first time in the eight years I have been showing in Melbourne, he shook my hand. Looking directly into my eyes, he congratulated me on "a brave, and good exhibition". Maybe he went cold on it after my recent comments in this blog (and the Melbourne press) about the Melbourne Art Fair. After all, Ashley is a freelance writer on the arts and many of the people he depends upon for a living were involved with the event. Whatever the reason, his first public reference to PORNO – in his Art Around The Galleries column, published in the A2 section of today's edition of The Age newspaper – was utterly dismissive: "Hazel Dooney is known for her self depictions in high gloss enamel which comment on advertising and fashion," he wrote. "Here she moves into photography in an attempt to explore what she dubs a new porno “aesthetic”. The results, many of them lesbian sexual frolics, have a strangely depressing effect. Rather than create a new aesthetic Dooney has simply served up soft porn." The pictures must have been very depressing because this has to be the first time that the depiction of the lesbian sexual frolic of fisting has been described as "soft" – in porn or any other context.
Maybe Ashley has become more jaded than I thought. I'll send him a framed, signed image from the show (above) "to live with" in the hope that it re-invigorates his usually good sense of humour, if not his critical perspective.