Show of strength for contemporary Maine painting (excerpt)

 

By Daniel Kany

August 10, 2014

Played to Win: Paintings by Elizabeth Fox

CMCA, Rockport, ME

 

Obama Painting

"The Drop"

The most exciting work at CMCA is the painting of Elizabeth Fox. Smart, savvy and slick, Fox’s exquisitely painted small narrative pictures first appear aloof and theatrical but quickly unleash a tsunami of quirky details that washes back and forth between cultural commentary and charming personal wackiness.

 

Fox’s paintings ostensibly play off television scenes, but with a heavy dose of pictorial wit carried easily by her New Yorker-cartoon style. In “The Drop,” we see a cross-sectional view of a money bag left in an ice fishing shack amongst three meandering figures in jeans and black jackets. The fashion-plate vanity of the model figure on the left, however, becomes insidiously – and inescapably – hilarious.

 

We see Fox’s women in transparent skirts revealing the precise shape of their butts and it leaves us to wonder if they are self-conscious or advertising – or if, among other options, Fox just happens to have a thing for butts. This is the main subject of a blush-worthy painting of construction workers and it pushes a scene of a “Mad Men”-esque secretary, “Apply Before Entering,” into the slipperiest bit of sexual humor I have ever seen in a painting. (It’s my favorite work anywhere of 2014.)

 

What makes Fox’s work so effective is the fact that some of her narrative traces are patent dead-ends while others refuse to stop for anything. Her fashion sense is real, but she employs it with a (forked) tongue-in-cheek sensibility.

 

Fox’s show is tiny but it has a massive impact – like an over-medicated David Lynch version of “House of Cards.”

 

Oh, and Fox can paint.

 

The underlying message of this season of shows at CMCA conveys the idea that contemporary Maine painting is loaded with conceptual heft and that it is now mature enough to leave behind the ongoing Oedipal battle with coastal painting.

 

Portland Press Herald Site