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Erin M. Riley’s “Darkness Lies Ahead” Weaves Trauma into New Tapestries

When you hear the word "tapestry", you might think of classical, lavish pastoral images dotted with decorative designs. Erin M. Riley is an artist who brings the medium into a new Contemporary context with her insightful portrayals of modern women. Her previous solo exhibition, "Something Previous" (featured here) borrowed inspiration from the internet. In a world where we can share our every thought and most intimate moments, we tend to lose our sense of boundaries. This is a concept that continues to intrigue Riley, which she extends into her current show "Darkness Lies Ahead" at Joshua Liner Gallery in New York.

When you hear the word “tapestry”, you might think of classical, lavish pastoral images dotted with decorative designs. Erin M. Riley is an artist who brings the medium into a new Contemporary context with her insightful portrayals of modern women. Her previous solo exhibition, “Something Previous” (featured here) borrowed inspiration from the internet. In a world where we can share our every thought and most intimate moments, we tend to lose our sense of boundaries. This is a concept that continues to intrigue Riley, which she extends into her current show “Darkness Lies Ahead” at Joshua Liner Gallery in New York. Notably, the exhibition features her largest pieces to date on display, some just over eight feet wide. The show is also decidedly darker, debuting a new series that captures the trauma of roadside accidents. Titled “The History Pieces”, the series recreates scenes of wrecked cars and tire skid marks, alluding to the tragedy that has taken place. Riley likens these as a metaphor for her own personal tragedies or experiences, including her relationships with men. She displays them alongside her more signature nude “Selfies” series, anonymous women photographing themselves with their iPhones. There is another underlying link between the two ideas and that is our modern day voyeuristic interest in someone else’s business. In a way, scrolling through someone’s Instagram account is no different than rubbernecking, and Riley captures this morbid curiosity with increasingly provocative pieces. “Darkness Lies Ahead” by Erin M. Riley is now on view at Joshua Liner gallery through June 6th.

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The selfie and the woven tapestry are just about as disparate as two media can get. While the former is snapped quickly and effortlessly to join a stream of endless images, the latter is created through a painstaking process that beckons a more thoughtful viewing than mindlessly scrolling through Instagram. Erin M. Riley subverts our image consumption habits — and the hierarchy of types of images in general — with her hand-woven tapestries, which she bases on selfies of anonymous women found on the internet. Riley culls her source imagery from social media, taking throwaway, low-res photos and cementing them into handmade, physical objects with a much longer lifespan. The artist will present her latest body of work, "Something Precious," at Soze Gallery in Los Angeles in February 21.
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.

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