There’s nothing traditional about Brooklyn based artist Erin M. Riley’s woven tapestries. Through created on a loom using traditional techniques, her work features explicit in-your-face imagery that is beautiful and at times difficult to look at. Covered here on our blog and in Hi-Fructose Vol. 36, her tapestries take a screenshot of modern life, especially that of women, focusing on difficult images of drug addition, sex acts, violence, trauma, based on what she finds online and in her personal life.
Riley grew up in a generation where much of our social interaction has been online. She spent her youth connecting, dating, and relating to people through a screen, owing to the voyeurism that is presented in her work. She describes it as “images that might be sent through Snapchat nowadays, or the ones that might be deleted after a hookup.” The artist has even captured the intimate moments and artifacts of her own “hook ups”. In a world where girls are supposed to be perfect and innocent, ultimately, her work also addressed issues like slut-shaming, a social stigma applied to women who violate traditional expectations.
Riley’s new works, currently on view at Hashimoto Contemporary in San Francisco, present these conflicting ideas and realities about a woman’s life in this voyeuristic world. Her images tell this story in pieces, from rows of bloody tampons and other objects associated with womanhood, to darker images like drug paraphernalia- and while these things range from the “normal” to extreme, both illicit a negative reaction and are considered taboo. “There is so much about being a woman that is hidden,” she says. “We are meant to be clean, precious and virginal, and yet there are bodily functions that are off limits… I want to face the daily objects that so many women use, but so many women hide. The more comfortable we are around certain things, the less they can be used against us.”