Using a Macomber floor loom, Brooklyn based textile artist Erin M Riley hand weaves woolen tapestries full of images that tell the stories of the multifaceted lives of modern young women. Based on social media images as well as autobiographical experiences that focus on objects and fleeting moments, Riley’s artworks in “The Pain Comes in Waves,” her solo exhibition at Ogaard Textile Work proffers visual dialogue that aims to reevaluate and reconsider the values of contemporary women, their social spheres and stratification, as well as their attitudes towards sex and sexuality through keyhole-like glimpses into their lives.
Subject matter including drug & alcohol paraphernalia, both as still lifes and as implemented by the faceless inebriated and often scantily clothed figures with salacious implications provide an exclusive view into the modern woman’s most personal habits and private stories. The small vignettes of women occupied in the after-effects of questionable activities: slumped and curled around a toilet, cradled in anonymous arms while deep in sleep or unconsciousness, and small bodies displayed through many reflections of a mirror, a “selfie” to an unknown recipient, discloses the women’s fractured and external locus of identity. Alternatively, Riley presents still life images on simple, natural-colored backgrounds that allow the thematic complexities of the small and common objects: eyebrow tweezers, condoms, and pregnancy tests to be isolated for closer examination and contemplation. Overall, Riley’s use of the tapestry medium and the traditional craft of weaving, its inherent tactility, permanence and unavoidable feminine connotations blended with the ephemeral computer- webcam- and smartphone-sourced imagery of novel representations of the feminine reveals an intriguing contrast of traditional and modern values, and indeed how actions affect the perception of self.
The title, “The Pain Comes in Waves” has the potential to dramatically redirect an audience’s attitudes towards the work. It alludes to the harmful effects of actions depicted, and in some ways acts as a forewarning to the effects of their actions rather than celebrating them, as if they should reveal the pain rather than pleasure. Riley may perhaps wish to conjure up compassion towards these women instead of rebuke or condemnation, and encourage more sympathy or at least understanding towards the figures as they attempt to reconcile themselves and live fully in this new world.
Erin M Riley, “The Pain Comes in Waves” will be at Ogaard Textile Work 5861 San Pablo Ave. through April 19th