New York

Emily Oliveira, The Goddess Is Transfixed by the Blood Moon Reflected in the Water at High Tide, 2021, found and hand-dyed fabric, cotton batting, cotton thread, 52 × 45".

Emily Oliveira, The Goddess Is Transfixed by the Blood Moon Reflected in the Water at High Tide, 2021, found and hand-dyed fabric, cotton batting, cotton thread, 52 × 45".

Emily Oliveira

How thin is the veil between our world and the next? Emily Oliveira’s exhibition “Red Velvet, Orange Crush” examined this numinous terrain for felicitous cracks, where a quick glance between astral planes can potentially offer up moments of satori. Oliveira positions herself between these realms as a kind of mystical gatekeeper, providing safe passage into unknown dimensions. A lustrous array of tapestries and sculptures were housed in this gallery turned devotional space, inviting us into the artist’s search for an existence free of earthly chaos and mortal inhibitions.

Oliveira draws inspiration from a number of sources, including science fiction, hermeticism, nature, queer magic, and Catholic iconography. This effect is clear in Two Goddesses Witness the Miraculous Resurrection of an Ox Under a Solar Eclipse, Even as Two Dogs Fight Over the Bones, 2021, an eye-shaped tapestry that hangs on a wall painted in an otherworldly ombré of purple, peach, coral, and yellow. Patches of cotton and velvet are meticulously sewn into a substrate of silk to create a tableau that appears to illustrate some form of sacred interplanetary ritual. Here, a solar eclipse pierces a crimson sky, as though it were Moses parting the Red Sea. Below this celestial event are two ethereal and feminine beings who coolly lounge in the half-light, seemingly indifferent to the extraordinary sight of a fetal ox hovering between them.

With each careful stitch, Oliveira brings her curious and cosmic figures to life. In The Goddess Is Transfixed by the Blood Moon Reflected in the Water at High Tide, 2021, a radiant being looks lovingly onto its own body as it melts into a pool of flesh and blood, their eyes literally aflame at the sight. In A Portal Opens at Split Rock When the Sun Dips Below the Horizon, 2021, a luminous gateway reveals an inquisitive onlooker who appears transfixed by the portal, like a deer caught in headlights. Of all these intense works, the most astonishing piece here was I am weak with much giving, I am weak with the desire to give more, 2022—an enormous vulvar creature (which seems to have been pulled straight out of Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice [1988]) sculpted from burgundy velvet. A long slender tentacle extends out of the wall-mounted sculpture, poised to grasp at unsuspecting passersby.

More than a hundred miles away, at Geary Contemporary’s second location in Millerton, New York, a companion exhibition struck a dramatically different tone. Three quilts and two silk pieces were hung on surprisingly barren white walls. But the absence of color only amplified the splendor in these works. Four of these pieces were flush with a rich inky blue—the hue of the cyanotype, a nineteenth-century photographic process identifiable by the haunting ghostlike images the technique produces, which the artist employed in the making of these objects. Their calm spectral qualities provided a sharp contrast to the psychedelic, apocalyptic fervor of the Manhattan presentation.

In Millerton, the interdimensional journey appeared to be complete—Oliveira’s characters here had shed most of their human attributes; some were even composed entirely of stellar constellations. In My voice could not carry to you did you dwell in stars, O Spirits of whom my soul is but a little finger, 2021, two celestial beings communed with apparitional plant life, while O Spirits of whom my soul is but a little finger, Direct it to the lid of its flesh-eye (They begin their journey into the brutality garden, the cosmic hedge maze), 2022, depicted a pair of ghosts trying to recall the sensation of physical touch. Ingrained in each of these works is an undeniable sense of sanctity—one might have walked away from this show with the feeling of having witnessed something holy, fabled, or lost long ago to the sands of time.