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Online OnlyApr 18, 2023

In “The Familiars,” Haley Wood and Aris Moore Craft Creatures that Recall Our Younger Selves

Wood and Moore’s dual exhibition of textiles and illustrations at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery brings together an endearing cast of familiar creatures.

Review by Karolina Hac

A green couch with pillows stands beneath an artwork that features fairytale-like characters.

Installation view, “The Familiars,” Abigail Ogilvy Gallery, 2023. Photo courtesy Abigail Ogilvy Gallery.

Walking into Abigail Ogilvy Gallery, you can’t help but feel like you’re being observed. All along the gallery walls, the eyes of woodland and fairytale characters in hand-tufted yarn and odd, amorphous creatures on paper peer out inquisitively. Featuring the work of Haley Wood and Aris Moore, “The Familiars” brings together a cast of characters that call to our younger selves in different ways.

Wood’s signature textile work draws on medieval marginalia and folklore, recalling classic tales in a medium that tempts us to reach out and touch. In fact, some of the works on display—a pair of Lewis Chessmen King Pillows (2021) and two Drolatic Hare Cushions (2022)—are meant to be touched. There is an approachability in this work because of the familiarity. While we may not know the actual story it depicts, looking at Forest Chase (2022), the trope of a rider on a horse chasing after a deer or rabbit conjures images of the world of Robin Hood, for example. But Wood does a clever thing here, muddying the narrative and playing with these tropes; upon a closer look, we wonder, is this person chasing the deer or the hare? Are the bird and the dog companions? Is there even animosity or ill intent between these characters, or are they running away from something together? This is the moment we begin to fill in our own narratives.

Haley Wood, The Ogre’s Beautiful Daughter, 2022. Acrylic yarn, hand-tufted, 39 x 50 in. Photo courtesy Abigail Ogilvy Gallery.

In contrast, Moore’s intricate, delicate sketchbook illustrations beckon us closer, inviting us to peer into the world of creatures and landscapes that look right out of a dream. The fact that they came out of her sketchbook—perforated edges and all—gives these drawings a magically intimate quality, as if we are peering into the artist’s mind. Moore, a middle school teacher familiar with the tumultuous emotions accompanying early teenage years, illustrates creatures that exude dread, joy, confusion, and that unique self-awareness that comes with inching toward adulthood. Figures like those in One way or another (2021) or Protect (2023) are charming little hybrids, humanoid but not fully identifiable. Works like 8 (2021) and 9 (2022) are reminiscent of some of Moore’s portraits from years past, which walked the line between endearing and unsettling. It’s a wonder Moore can fit such complexity onto paper often no larger than an average notebook.

Aris Moore, Lost and found, 2022. Pencil, colored pencil, marker and pen on paper, 8.5 x 10.5 in. Photo courtesy Abigail Ogilvy Gallery.

While the media Moore and Wood work with create different limitations for representing these fantastical figures, they share a connection to the more childlike side of ourselves, revealing that these spaces are just as multidimensional as our more “serious” adult selves.

The Familiars” is on view at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery through April 23, 2023.

A black and white drawing of Karolina Hac, a woman with wavy shoulder-length hair, smiling at the viewer.

Karolina Hac

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