Recently on view at the Chinatown pop-up Lazy Susan Gallery, Oldham’s series of intricate watercolors draws upon and combines multiple literary sources: the Greek myth of the Minotaur’s labyrinth, the biblical story of Judith and Holofernes, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1892 short story “The Yellow Wallpaper.” In doing so, two major themes emerge: enclosure (the labyrinth itself and the room in which the woman in “The Yellow Wallpaper” is confined to for her mental recovery), and, for lack of a better word, badass women (i.e. Ariadne and Judith) overcoming literal and figurative demons.
Oldham’s feminism is a poetic one and one that is much appreciated. Her faceless women, of all races, are dressed in stylish armor inspired-dresses, and despite being flecked with blood or even wielding a (hot pink) cast, seemingly trapped in wallpaper-clad rooms similar to that in Gilman’s story, one after another overcome fearsome monsters. In utilizing timeless mythology, Oldham is able to create a group of heroines fit for today. Her dual embrace of pattern and bold geometry gives the watercolors a feminine “quilted” feel while still exuding the strength that she seeks to communicate, an impression helped in part by the gruesomely decapitated monsters that also populate the works.
Taken either as a simple update to classic tales or as a metaphor for feminism in contemporary society, Oldham’s work is a strong argument that “girls” can and will overtake their demons, both internal and external.
Keri Oldham: Blood Banner at Lazy Susan Gallery
July 16 – July 30th, 2016
191 Henry Street