When I think of Macramé, I remember the knotted string plant holders that adorned my house while growing up in the 1970s. I was not particularly fond of them then and certainly did not consider them art. It was with some interest that I began following the macramé adventures of one of my Facebook friends, Noël Morical.
Noël is a process-based artist living in Chicago. Her show, Casual Cadence opens at Jupiter’s Outpost on Fulton Market at 5:00 today. The show runs through the month of June, so there is plenty of time to experience it. To create this body of work, Noël used the macramé technique of working with textiles. The name of the body of work comes from the meditative process that occurs (and needs to occur or you’d lose your mind!) while creating these pieces. Macrame is the art of using knots to make the work as opposed weaving or knitting.
I first met Noël Morical in a collaborative weaving class at the SAIC. She is a very thin and energetic woman with a big chunky smile. At the time, she was creating a weaving out of cassette and videotape tapes. In order to create her weaving she needed to collect a lot of tape as each piece was about ten feet long.
I happened to be fortunate enough to also take a puppetry class with her the following semester. One of our assignments was to create a shadow puppet show. Making these paper puppets involves cutting out puppets with an Exacto knife and then rigging them to sticks with strings and pulleys to get them to move. I found the process to be laborious and difficult and was unable to make any memorable puppets. Noël, on the other hand, was able to create very detailed and clever puppets. I asked her how she had the time or the inclination to make them. She said, “I just sit and zip them out while doing other stuff, like watching TV.”
What I learned about Noël during those two classes is that she is a bundle of energy and ideas. She never stops moving, thinking and making. She seems to thrive on creating intricate and time-consuming work. Knowing this about her, I was excited to see that she was having a show. I figured she would over-deliver on anything she set her mind to. I was not disappointed.
The practice of macramé has been around at least as early as the 13th century. Arabic weavers had a word migramah meaning fringe. This fringe often adorned the blankets on camels, which helped to keep the flies away as they moved when the camel was walking. We do know that macramé’s popularity waxes and wanes over the years. I’ve noticed in recent years that some artists have taken crafty based fiber techniques such as knitting and quilting and created high art, so it is not surprising that this has happened with macramé.
The show is being exhibited by Abryant Gallery at Jupiter’s Outpost. Abryant is not your traditional brick and mortar gallery but is a rotating contemporary art gallery that showcases young and new and emerging artists both virtually and physically. They also offer consultation services for those of you who need a little help procuring art for your home or business.
Before yesterday, I had never been to the Fulton Market neighborhood and that was a treat in itself. I was able to find free parking and walked to Jupiter’s Outpost, the coffee place where Noël is exhibiting her work. The first thing I noticed about this cool neighborhood was the smell of chocolate! I later learned that it comes from Blommer Chocolate Company where they make chocolate daily. Lucky for me I found this out later because a stop in their shop, for their reasonably priced sweets, may have been a problem for me!
Jupiter’s Outpost is a cool, open-air restaurant in a warehouse. The coffee is delicious and it has a fun, young atmosphere. The super tall ceilings made it the perfect place to display Noël’s work. She has a giant macramaed tapestry stretching across the wall and four very long pieces hanging from the ceiling. These were absolutely stunning. One of them even had a plant in it which I took to be a nod to the popularity of the 70s plant holder.
She truly takes what I would’ve barely called a craft to fine art. These pieces are stunning. One thing that is astounding, if you know anything about macramé, is that it is made by hand knotting. It is amazing to imagine Noël tying the thick cording into knots and making these intricate, colorful sculptures. I found myself wishing for a time-lapsed video to see their creation from start to finish.
Her work made me think of an interview with the painter, Chuck Close, that I read years ago. He said that a hundred years from now, if a curator came across his work, he wouldn’t get rid of it. Why? For no other reason than the shocking amount of hand painting that went into creating his giant portraits. Hopefully some day, a curator will say the same thing about Noël.
Kathleen Thometz is an artist, writer and board member of the RAC. She lives with her husband, kids and doodle dogs. You can experience more about her at www.kathleenthometz.com.