When wrapped around bodies, wool promises warmth and dryness in even the most awful weather. In the hands of Cynthia O’Hern, a master of felting, it proves capable of confronting other sorts of human trials. O’Hern mattes wool fibers together to create realistic nudes so palpably tangled with nerves and sinews, so viscerally mottled in shades of bruise, as to seem nearly skinless. Two of her larger-than-life-size tapestries, on view earlier this fall in Threads Laid Bare, a group exhibition at Drake University’s Anderson Gallery in Des Moines, Iowa, offer little comfort but plenty of raw honesty. In “The H(a)unch,” a woman squats with her back to us, her spine and ribs painfully articulated, her pose a defiant combination of primal and professional. In “Sensing the Flux,” a bust of a woman grips her chin, gnashes her teeth, and bulges her eyes in a state of terrifying anxiety. No surprise that it was made in 2020.
—Lori Waxman 2020-11-30 2:17 PM