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Gawking at the weird and the wild at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery

Artists Aris Moore and Haley Wood stir laughter and wonder with their anthropomorphic figures in ‘The Familiars’

Haley Wood, “The Ogre's Beautiful Daughter,” 2022, is part of “The Familiars” exhibition at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery. Acrylic yarn, hand-tufted.Haley Wood

“The Familiars” at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery highlights two artists, Aris Moore and Haley Wood, who depict anthropomorphic characters that transport us to darkly enchanted worlds.

Wood finds inspiration in drolleries, cartoons doodled in the margins of medieval illuminated manuscripts; killer bunnies were a recurring motif. Her tufted textiles, seen here in wall hangings and throw pillows, bring monstrosities home with domestic arts.

“The Ogre’s Beautiful Daughter” is among the best. The giant, graying ogre is so stooped, his chin rests on his toes, and a red squirrel in a ruff holds a forked stick to prop up his drooping eyebrows. Wood’s shifting scale pumps up a fairy tale mysticism; the daughter is closer in size to the squirrel than to her father. Themes about class, othering, and magic stir all kinds of stories.


Some of Wood’s pieces lack narrative complexity, but when she offers enough detail, the works brim with intrigue. “Hellmouth” sets two figures inside a cavernous, fanged mouth. One has rabbit ears and the other two heads. They’re devilishly red, but they lack a devil’s swagger. Instead, they look fearful.

Haley Wood, "Hellmouth," 2023. Acrylic yarn, hand-tufted.Haley Wood

The tension between our animal and human selves is at a high pitch during puberty. Moore taught middle school art for 21 years, and the not-quite-this-or-that characters in her drawings feel rooted in those awkward years. Many have goggling eyes and wide-open mouths, as if in a constant state of terror, humiliation, or both. In “28,” Moore depicts a snail with prancing human legs, its speckled breast jutting. But it wears a horrified expression, as if its legs have sprouted from nowhere and are carrying it away.

Aris Moore, “28,” 2021. Pencil, colored pencil, marker, and pen on paper.Aris Moore

In “Lost and Found,” two blobby figures sit delicately on the back of a creature with a sympathetic human face. Other blobs bob in water behind them, eyes spinning. I showed this image to a friend who recently retired from teaching middle school. I thought the blobby characters were students, and the other creature their teacher — a support and haven. My friend laughed; she saw all of them as teachers, raw and at sea.


Aris Moore, “Lost and Found,” 2022. Pencil, colored pencil, marker, and pen on paper.Aris Moore

You don’t have to be 12 to know the overwhelm depicted in Moore’s drawings. With character and narrative, both artists evoke unpolished parts of ourselves that lurk just under the surface — a wilderness that is all too familiar.


At Abigail Ogilvy Gallery, 460 Harrison Ave., through April 23. 617-820-5173


Cate McQuaid can be reached at catemcquaid@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.