In a world diving each day more in digital and augmented reality, it is refreshing to notice the popularity of old physical art techniques among the younger generations. Indeed, activities that were once relegated to dusty attics, such as embroidery and knitting, are now trending with pop culture twists. With this in mind, the tapestry art of Erin M. Riley has little to do with the Bayeux Tapestry or even the Gallery of Tapestries of the Vatican, except for the ancient technique, of course.
In the hands of millennial, textile arts are often revamped with politically incorrect themes, especially eroticism. But when most of the artists are following the casual path of their imagination, Erin M. Riley stands out of the crowd with her offbeat source of inspiration. She bases her hand-woven and hand-dyed wool tapestries on photography from the internet, especially Instagram. But don’t expect sunsets and vegan meals. Erin merely focus on selfies, especially the naughty ones you send when sexting. The American artist picks the next subject of her tapestries on the accounts of millions of social network users, as well as on porn videos and on her very own sexts.
If you think her goal is purely to shock and entice the public, you completely miss the point. For example, Erin considers that a majority of her fans are women and this, with no sexual connotation. They are just relating to the faceless heroines of the tapestries and their modern struggles with body-centered beauty, dating issues and control of the image. According to the weaver, what fascinates her most in these naked girls shooting themselves in their rooms or bathrooms is the extreme attention given to the body to the detriment of their often chaotic surrounding. Who hasn’t stumbled upon an articles pointing out some fishy elements in the background of these selfish images? Turning this paradox into art, especially into an ancient art, is certainly starting a cheeky discussion…the philosophical debate is yours.
Sex is the favorite theme of Erin’s artwork, but she also explores many dark subjects such as drugs, weapons and minor news items. If there is always a bit of voyeurism in her work, mirroring our internet peeping habits, she is mainly questioning reality. The objects and bodies featured in her pieces are used by human beings to escape or even deny reality. Yet, they are an illustration of a quite trashy and sad reality. So, beyond risqué art, the tapestries of Erin M. Riley are maybe a useful social exploration of the fleeting state of our contemporary world.