Eleanor Aldrich’s love for paint is evidenced in the thick, gooey surfaces on view in That Feeling When, a new exhibition of painting and sculpture that opened at Channel to Channel in Nashville on November 7. The show includes portraits of young women that Aldrich adapted from Nancy Drew book covers, and a series of remarkable works where the artist uses the raised textures of her surfaces to paint lenticular illusions of moving imagery as viewers pass in front of the works. The show also includes a few small shoe-shaped sculptures.
The Nancy Drew works are the highlight of the show, marrying Aldrich’s signature formal preoccupations with excessive texture and bold color to the narrative dramas of her subjects. The women in these portraits all look away from the camera or have their faces hidden behind their hair. Just like the girl detective who inspired them, these figures appear independent and self-contained while also being ripe for the projections of viewers who could easily imagine themselves into these paintings—specifically because of the anonymity of their subjects.
The lenticular paintings, such as Kitchen Sink and Ironing, offer takes on domestic interiors and chores, presenting Nancy Drew as a feisty gateway feminist. Aldrich’s shoe sculptures are made of materials like drywall mesh tape, and she uses caulk and silicone on her paintings to achieve that unmistakable Aldrichian viscosity. This marriage of feminist icons and critiques of traditional feminine roles to the kinds of hardware store materials we usually associate with traditional masculinity is a relationship that’s easy to overlook given these work’s excessive surfaces. Aldrich’s work isn’t just thick with stylistics. It also engages in deep inquiries about identity and—just like Nancy Drew—it’s not afraid to upset expectations in the pursuit of mystery.
That Feeling When is on view at Channel to Channel in Nashville through December 19, 2020.