Mariel Harari: An Artist Exploring the Boundaries of Chaos and Structure by Rachel Henry
March 1, 2017
Mariel Harari’s work is an arresting combination of playful colors and common materials that elicit pieces both foreign and engaging. Originally from Brooklyn, Harari recently completed a 5-week residency at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, Artist in Residence, in Nebraska before settling in Chicago in late 2016. She’s a member of LADY ART NATION CHICAGO, a new chapter of a New York-based gender expansive group which supports creatives, their work, and builds community.
During her Midwest residency, Harari prepared for her upcoming exhibition, Flesh Deity, at Hairpin Arts Center in Chicago’s Logan Square area. This included editing an animation video to go with her piece Bitter Root, as well as developing Flesh Suit, which is both a performance and installation. The exhibition runs from February 4 through the 28. The opening performance of Flesh Deity, is part of 2nd Floor Rear, an art festival taking place on February 4 and 5, 2017.
The inspiration for Flesh Suit came from Harari’s thoughts on plastic surgery; the vision of a face marked up before being manipulated into another form. Though, this visual and accompanying story, is not something that Harari would expect viewers to understand about the piece.
In her artist statement, she says, “I make open-ended narratives. Each tale is deeply personal, but you are not meant to read them word for word (or image by image). I believe only something intimate and honest can be universal. Not through literal understanding but an emotional or sensory response.”
Much of Harari’s work incorporates yarn and beads, which she uses both because of the familiarity and connection to childhood these materials represent. The vinyl cloth that holds the various colored yarns in Flesh Suit, is the material often found protecting comforters, sofas, kitchen counters and other domestic artifacts.
The domestic connection is no accident. Harari says she is interested both in the concept of domesticity and what it means to be a woman. Domesticity, the home, and nurturing, are all traditionally female roles and realms. These concepts are present Harari’s work both in the materials she weaves together, as well in the physical result.
Bitter Root (Milk) is another perfect example of work rendered through the use of domestic materials (yarn, vinyl, beads, satin) as well crochet. These materials, and the representation of milk, a nurturing substance, align with socially constructed ideas of what femininity traditionally represents in the home.
“I am interested in dissecting, mimicking and or reacting to the impact of societal constructs on the individual. The imposed structure on uninhibited human experience. Can we ever know how we would be if removed from internalized or dictated expectations?”
In contrast to the idea of structure, is the concept of chaos, Harari likes to play with both these themes in her work. By creating her self-described, sometimes fantastical imagery, Harari finds a sweet spot to discuss these ideas. Her work, which at times may seem otherworldly, speaks to rebelling against constructs. Harari says the idea of rebellion is intriguing because those who rebel against society are rebelling within confinement. Harari’s rebellion against ‘traditional’ images works because she uses familiar materials and there are recognizable elements in her pieces.
Harari says inspiration comes to her from everywhere. One platform she enjoys perusing for ideas is fashion magazines, which she’s attracted to because of their graphic nature. The narratives for her pieces, however, come later. Harari does not always know the storyline when she starts to work; more often than not it reveals further down the line.
Pieces like Bitter Root (Cow Flowers) are intentionally bright and playful to invite a sense of familiarity. Harari wants viewers to engage. Humor, nostalgia (of childhood textiles), and playfulness help recall creativity as a child. These elements are ‘almost acting as a portal to create something immersive.”
The generosity and inviting nature of Harari’s work are refreshing. By using accessible materials like yarn, beads, and vinyl cloth, she allows viewers to use familiarity as a stepping stone to enter her worlds of humor, and vibrant, visual artistry.
Artist: Mariel Harari is a Chicago-based fiber artist who has work appearing at Hairpin Arts Center as well as Vam in Wonderland RutCorp. She is a member of LADY ART NATION CHICAGO.
Writer: Rachel Henry is a writer who covers topics ranging from art, books, careers, and beyond. She is also a member of LADY ART NATION CHICAGO.