Elizabeth Fox lived in New Orleans for 18 years before relocating to Maine after Hurricane Katrina. For 12 of those years, the Florida native worked as a receptionist at a law firm, an environment that may have inspired this Paper Doll series of paintings exploring the glossy surfaces of life in the workaday world of executives and secretaries, as well as the shadowy nuances that underlie those pastel and earth-tone facades. True to the title, her figures appear in role-playing scenarios based on everyday interactions meticulously rendered in a dreamlike style charged with psychic undercurrents. If the daydreams of secretaries and receptionists had lives of their own, this is what they might look like. For instance, Pin the Tail on the Secretary depicts a stenographer in pastel colors and heels. She clutches a notepad, and her blank expression matches the bland walls of the office. The painting features a sidebar containing a variety of tails ranging from flowers to animal appendages that might be metaphorically attached to the secretary's posterior, suggesting any number of possible roles that could extend well beyond the office itself. In other words, there is a kind of Cosmo girl existentialism at work.
Secretary fantasies abound in canvases such as In For the Kill, in which an icy blonde princess nonchalantly touches up her makeup as a couple of men duke it out in the background. Her domestic interiors such as Intentions of a Shadow (pictured) take us to a psychically fraught realm of Hitchcockian surrealism as a woman in a gauzy nightgown enters a bedroom, casting a long shadow over a man's sleeping form. Her vibe is transgressive, possibly sexual, if not sinister. So, what's going on? In these works, Fox explores a classic Middle American vein of repression offset by fantasy in a style that amounts to latter-day Mannerism — a psychological pop Mannerism that explores the weirdness inherent in the workaday world around us. — D. Eric Bookhardt
Secret Life of a Paper Doll: Paintings by Elizabeth Fox
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