YONKERS, New York — Blood falls over a compass rose circled slowly by turkey vultures, while in another room a pelican goddess spits out the Milky Way in a celestial swirl of beads and shredded fabric. The mystical visions are part of Mandy Greer’s The Ecstatic Moment installation of crocheted and collected fantasy at the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, New York.
While Greer has exhibited her pieces that mix scraps of old clothes and other tossed away fabric with artifacts from her life around the US and in Europe, this is the Seattle-based artist’s first East Coast solo show. Yet the work has a deep resonance with its location. Inspired by the Glenview Victorian house that’s attached to the museum — a relic of Yonkers’ time as a retreat for the Manhattan upper class — as well as the Hudson River flowing by and the old abandoned Glenwood Power Station (soon to be an arts center itself) visible from the space, her exhibition offers a series of “realms” responding to life, death, and power.
As she explains in a video presented alongside the three galleries with her art, she wanted to create an atmosphere of repulsion and attraction, as well as discovery. The Hudson River Museum invited Greer to explore their attic and basement storage areas, and she found old taxidermy birds in glass domes, classically-inspired statues with their fingers snapped off, and the kind of hefty, Victorian mirrors you expect to always be draped in mourning. A salvaged 1900 bronze of Orpheus is now linked by intestine-like fabric strands to a “Vermilion Poppy Goddess” — a red-haloed mannequin outfitted in one of Greer’s draped costumes — in the “Vermilion Room,” while his lost Eurydice carved in marble is pulled by a twist of black ribbons towards the pelican goddess in the “Celestial Room.”
The Ecstatic Moment is one of those exhibitions that’s more rewarding the second time through. After you get beyond trying to figure out how the videos, photography, fabric art, and Victorian objects connect to a narrative, it’s engrossing to explore the shifting colors of fabric-based art, from an inverted volcano of birds in “Every Moment Lost Is Lost Forever,” colored the same peach as one found in the Glenview mansion’s salon, to a cascade of blue in “Mater Matrix Mother and Medium: Waterfall,” a piece she originally made as a community project to respond to an Icelandic glacier that now echoes the flow of the Hudson. The details are also often exquisite and unexpected, like a leather raven lurking in a web of shimmering beads and tattered yarn, or the worn pebbles among the plastic beads making up a miniature moon.
The Hudson River Museum’s galleries outside of its attached Victorian manor aren’t grand in any architectural world, but the art gives them a feeling of phantasmagoric transformation, much like the alchemy of Greer turning old clothes into the garb of a mythical goddess. The installation could have been more powerful in the Glenview house itself, and the mannequins wearing the costumes can feel a little too static and manufactured compared to the more hand-woven texture of the rest of the exhibition. But it’s exciting to see a museum that’s mostly off the NYC radar giving an emerging artist with a strong, strange vision such an open chance to experiment with their history, space, and collections.
Mandy Greer: The Ecstatic Moment continues at the Hudson River Museum (511 Warburton Avenue, Yonkers, New York) through September 14.