In a society that often represses women’s voices and experiences, Brooklyn-based tapestry artist Erin M. Riley uses her craft to address dark and taboo themes such as violence, self-harm, and objectification.
Her work is a reflection of her own life experiences, and she uses personal photographs and online images to create pieces that aim to raise awareness and promote recovery.
In this interview, Riley discusses her creative process, the endurance of weaving, and why it is important to tackle these subjects. Her work is a study of her existence and reflects a certain subset of women’s issues and female sexuality, which she believes should be talked about without shame.
Hello Erin, thank you for the interview. How is it like to be an artist? Would you define your work as artivism?
Hello TA-DAAN team, pleasure to meet you.
Being an artist is a constant state of internal dialogue and visual processing. I personally don’t believe in art as a way to change anything tangibly. I am working through topics that many people can see as shameful or impactful, but the objects and depictions are all authentically part of my personal life.
So I make art and as a person I live a life that aligns with my politics.
The female body is very much represented in your work as well as social taboos. When and how did you feel the necessity to start this artitstic research? Why do you feel your work is important?
I am not depicting a body, I am depicting a person, me. I have been making work around personal issues since I started putting pen on paper, from journaling all of my deepest darkest thoughts, to researching addiction, the effects of single parent households on identity and sexuality, and the ways in which trauma shows up within all of it. The research was necessary because I was deeply curious how people growing up in the same household could turn out so different, and with researching the issues that effected my sisters I realized my own issues and started depicting those.
My work is important for my own survival.
What are you working on at the moment? What topic will you explore in the future?
I am currently working on more self portraits, weaving images that I recently found in an old email account.
I am starting a piece that will be shaped, so not the typical square shape that I normally do.
I hope to explore more assembling and layering in the physical sense as well as in the visual sense. Working on big pieces and small pieces. I let my life and the issues that are effecting the world impact my work so I follow the path the work leads me down.
Can you name 2-3 women who inspired you and why?
Hmm, I think I will just say I am inspired by everyone I follow on instagram, there are so many incredible artists that inspire me everyday. I have been reading a lot of memoirs lately, so also anyone willing to put their personal life out in the open and deal with the repercussions of that.
What piece of advice would you give to other creative women?
I would say trust your gut, make work that scares you, make the bad work, be present in your mind everyday and enjoy the moments of emptiness when they occur because ideas will come back eventually.
Thank you so much for your time!
Don't forget to check her Instagram profile: @erinmriley