Collection Artwork
Erin M. Riley (born Cape Cod, Massachusetts, 1985)
Believe Me
wool, cotton
textile size: 92 1/2 x 102 in.
Gift of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York; Hassam, Speicher, Betts and Symons Funds, 2021
Printed label, stitched, weaving verso, lower left: Erin M. Riley / HANDWOVEN / WOOL & COTTON / [horizontal line] 20 [short horizontal line]
Handwritten on first horizontal line: Believe Me
Handwritten on second horizontal line: 20

Object Label

In Believe Me, Erin M. Riley explores unacknowledged stories of her family history and the memories retained within objects. Riley’s great-grandmother Terena Holmes, from Mechanicville, New York, was murdered in 1944, but Riley only learned about the tragedy recently. By investigating Holmes’s story and foregrounding a related news clipping in a large-scale tapestry, she forces herself, her family, and others to confront it—choosing recognition and discussion over silence and shame. Through weaving, she connects historical words and events to contemporary objects—past to present—and explores the ways intergenerational trauma has silently shaped her familial and personal identity.

—Rebecca McNamara, Associate Curator

From the exhibition: Where Words Falter: Art and Empathy (July 9 – December 18, 2022)

Ongoing Research

Research on our collection is ongoing. If you have resources you’d like to share, please contact Associate Curator Rebecca McNamara.
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