Alison Croney Moses’s wood sculptures, on view at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery’s new space at 450 Harrison Ave., embody a spirit of fortitude — yielding, yet self-contained.
Croney Moses uses wood, with its imperfections and variety of textures and colors, as a metaphor for the body. The mother of two has previously explored experiences of pregnancy and motherhood. Here, her “Habits of Making” series extends the theme with vessels echoing the feminine figure, the roundness of pregnancy, and the different levels of opening that motherhood can demand.
She starts with flat lengths of veneer, testing their ability to round out, fixing them together into a vessel. The slats come together in a pale, voluptuous bowl in “Holly Shell” and separate at either end like long petals. Suspended from the ceiling, the piece opens at eye level as if it might scoop you up or pour nectar into your mouth. “Flame Birch Shell Open” widens with almost shocking generosity.
It’s a terrific installation; the works gently drift and spin as air currents pass, elevating and consecrating the heaviness of pregnancy and maternal responsibilities. The group could be a gathering of wise women. Or joyful ones: Croney Moses is a cofounder of a moms of color group that has focused on fostering “unadulterated Black joy.”
The flame-shaped walnut vessel “On My Own” is in a different series, “Reframing the Things that Make Us.” Heavier, made with several layers of veneer, it floats closer to the ground and has more gravitas — a grandmother instead of a mother.
A grandparents’ unconditional love shines in wall works in that series, which explicitly embrace flaws and vulnerabilities as strengths. The approach recalls the kintsugi practice in Japanese ceramics, which highlights broken and repaired places in gold, as if our wounds and weak spots are our most precious assets.
In three pieces titled “Unsewn,” Croney Moses peels back walnut veneer to coral and yellow paint beneath, recalling raw flesh. For “The Joy in Repair,” she peels and loops a length of walnut veneer, painting the exposed part blue, a deep and endless sky revealed just under the everyday surface.
This exhibition is the artist’s first solo show. It’s a revelation if, like me, you’ve only seen her art in smaller doses. Each work’s formal grace demonstrates Croney Moses’s mastery of her medium — that’s no surprise. But together, they radiate something perhaps even more hard won: Acceptance. Patience. Compassion.
ALISON CRONEY MOSES: The Habits of Reframing
At Abigail Ogilvy Gallery, 450 Harrison Ave., through Oct. 22. 617-820-5173, www.abigailogilvy.com
Cate McQuaid can be reached at email@example.com.