Sunday, May 18, 2014

Fox at Boyd Satellite; Brainard at Cole Pratt

Drag Queens in the Rain by Elizabeth Fox

What happens when a lady artist who spent most of her life in the tropical South moves to the frigid far north? If longtime New Orleanian Elizabeth Fox's paintings are any guide, it's a period of adjustment that can be full of surprises. While much of her past work reflected this city's tropical languor, her new home, Maine, has long been a bastion of austere New England attitudes--but this may be changing as we see in Drag Queens in the Rain (pictured). Drag queens gathered like bevies of colorful tropical birds are a common French Quarter sight, but it's disorienting to see them outside a rustic north country cabin. Another painting, an ice fishing scene, looks traditional at first, but a cutaway view reveals a bag of money on a fishing line dangling through a hole in the ice--a reminder that Maine is now a hotbed of heroin distribution. Fox's dreamlike views of office workers, based on her years at a prominent local law firm, provide continuity, yet, if her typically slinky office babes and ambitious metrosexual males sometimes look a little lost in their new environs, this may also be a reflection of the Pine Tree State's 21st century identity crisis. In these works, Fox's flair for social commentary seems as sharp as ever. 

The atmospheric qualities of particular places can sometimes be oddly psychological. In Barbara Brainard's monoprints at Cole Pratt -- images reflecting her views of the city as seen from her bicycle -- the human presence is implicit, appearing as just emptied garbage cans scattered in the street, or as a ramshackle old building comprised of countless additions that make it look like a kind of human hive. Looming over it all is the blazing summer light filtered through the city's gelatinously humid air, and here nature itself appears as a colorfully unpredictably character that we dare not ignore. ~Bookhardt

Played to Win: Paintings by Elizabeth Fox, Thru June 3, Boyd Satellite Gallery, 440 Julia St., 899-4218; City in Mind: Monotypes by Barbara Brainard, Thru May 31, Cole Pratt Gallery, 3800 Magazine St., 891-6789