Critics’ Picks

Oona Brangam-Snell, I need to read your energy first, 2020, Jacquard woven cotton with hand embroidery, 92 x 48".

Oona Brangam-Snell, I need to read your energy first, 2020, Jacquard woven cotton with hand embroidery, 92 x 48".

New York

Oona Brangam-Snell

Mrs.
60-40 56th Drive
January 16–March 13, 2021

In Oona Brangam-Snell’s There’s no such thing as a fisherwoman, 2020—one of ten textile works in this spirited show—a wind sock of a ghost shocks a pigtailed woman. Her line has hooked a fish and its eyes, like hers, are wide with surprise. Silhouetted irises flank a matching set of fjords, a mise-en-scène evocative of folk art, a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, and, most of all, the motif of a fabric pattern. The piece’s tongue-in-cheek title, along with its pink-and-blue palette, tease at various clichés of gender and “women’s work.”

Informed by her job as a designer for the textile firm Maharam, Brangam-Snell adapts the techniques of mass production to make singular, eccentric objects. Influenced as much by histories of painting as by craft, her figurative tableaux combine characters from myth, folklore, and her own imagination. Hanging loosely from a blue wall, I need to read your energy first, 2020, features a periwinkle-skinned sorceress—as though she were a character born from the minds of Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo—with a serpentine tongue. A disco ball is balanced atop her finger, while a red gremlin warms itself beside a fire within her wide skirt. Wrapped tightly around stretcher bars is Gutsy Weeds, 2021, which presents a woven field of clover with hand-embroidered blooms. A hole, 2020, by turns playful and ominous, draws attention to flora with taunting faces that commingle with skeletal remains. At the heart of the image is the titular gap—a large maw that appears as though it could have swallowed up the magical creature, pen and all, from The Unicorn Rests in a Garden, 1495–1505, a medieval tapestry that hangs at the Met Cloisters in New York. The composition from A hole reappears in Nymph and Waterfall, 2020; in the latter, rising out of the breach is a nude pink leg with toenails painted scarlet. This moment of ambiguous burlesque reminds us that what we can’t see is often as magical as what we can.