Mrs. is pleased to announce an exhibition of new textiles by Queens-based artist Oona Brangam-Snell, titled Shadowlands. In this series of embroidered jacquards, Brangam-Snell explores the tension between our built and natural environments—both urban and rural—and how technological mastery and rationality collide with man’s unstable, atavistic drives.

Various sources define a “shadowland,” as “an indeterminate borderland between places or states, typically represented as an abode of ghosts and spirits,” “the realm peopled by shadows,” “the domain of the unconscious,” or simply, “obscurity.” If it’s a liminal borderland you want, several works here edge. The figure abundantly relieving himself in Hiker’s Wizz and the forest spirit of Lumberjack’s Block running out of trees to stump both occupy mirroring curves of earth so steep and diving as to promise a cliff. In Cowgirl’s Jailbreak, a harried woman is literally on the line, using her lassoed tightrope to escape a horde of windowless homes as she charts a horizon of her own devising.

All of Brangam-Snell’s textiles are both industrially woven and hand-manipulated, and this too is a shadowland—of old aesthetic hierarchies, of tired grievances and ghosts still animate in museums and the market, but under pressure and revision. Brangam-Snell wraps her jacquard wonders around rectangular stretcher bars, presenting them in the guise of paintings, as if challenging us with the hybridity of the works. See, for example, the satisfied look on the water tower in Bald Mountain Run or the shaggy distress of Sulker at Home, cursed with too much allegorical clutter and a garden apartment. Flexible work schedules, coffee shop productivity, and the molten creep of corporate talk (not to mention the timeless fear—or hope—that peaceable society will fray and break into pure chaos) are all freshly roasted in Synergy in the Hellmouth.

The vegetal patterns and depictions across Hiker’s Wizz, Places Plants Took Back, and Treelicker, point particularly to how Brangam-Snell blends both painterly and woven tongues. What if Georgia O’Keefe’s lonely paintings of Manhattan skyscrapers made love to my mother’s chintz couch? Nods to revered masters like Winslow Homer, Casper David Friedrich, and Odilon Redon are most certainly present, but so are references to the more commercial influences of Stig Lindberg, Mary Blair, and Mystery Science Theater 3000—exploiting the increasingly blurred divisions between the decorative and fine arts. The most rational way to describe these works often sounds irrational, not to mention quixotically Freudian.

Many pieces in Shadowlands court pop mysticism and echo low-key millennial flirtations with the occult, like an IKEA starter pack for spiritual seekers. They are ironically both comforting and uncomfortable—softly comic but also puzzling, cryptic, dark, and obstinate. For as much as they seem to show us, they are also closed off, forever locked up in the tight and resolved threads they cross and hold in refined, chromatic suspensions.

Like the imagery in a Tarot deck, they are both literally legible and will surely reflect—and deflect—endless interpretations. Meanings feel layered into them, laminated and condensed into touchstones, common places that those of us with questions have returned to for centuries, receiving no quick answers but deriving many potential stories—suggestions for what to do next.

(Grant Johnson)

Oona Brangam-Snell (b. 1989, New York City, NY) is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and works as a Senior Designer for the textile firm Maharam. Recent exhibitions include Arsenal Contemporary, Charles Moffett, Candice Madey, Hashimoto Contemporary New York, NY; Primary Projects, Miami, FL. Her work has been featured in Artforum, Artnet News, Architectural Digest Design, Hyperallergic, and T Magazine. Brangam-Snell’s work is included in the collection of Fidelity Investments, Boston, MA and The Bunker, Palm Beach, FL. Her first solo exhibition at Mrs. was held in January 2021. Brangam-Snell’s work has also been presented by Mrs. in a solo booth at NADA Miami in November 2021 and in a group exhibition at Felix Art Fair in March 2023.