Member Monday with John Paul Morabito

This is my orientation today. As we navigate a global pandemic, the time of the AIDS crisis has come again; I feel this in my body. Emerging out of the intensity of the immediate moment, my new and ongoing project, For Félix, is a transtemporal memorial that takes the form of shimmering beaded-fringe tapestries. With this work, I am retracing Félix González-Torres’ beaded curtains to confront COVID-19 and the ghost of AIDS. I began following this direction in the spring of 2020 while under quarantine with the rest of the world. At 37 years old, I was the same age that González-Torres was when a plague claimed his life. This witchy, queer folding of time was a powerful invitation to re-articulate González-Torres’ beaded curtains through the embodied medium of craft.

John Paul Morabito, For Félix (yellow like sorrow), 2021, cotton and glass beads, 88″ x 45″

For Félix works through the modes of transtemporal and abstract drag. Here, I am using the term drag with an intentional awareness of the associations with queer nightclubs, performativity, pageantry, and gender-play. Drag can be understood as a queer medium that produces connection through distance. The mode of transtemporal drag designates embodiment through chronopolitics that interrupt cisheteronormative concepts of time. By extension, abstract drag visualizes the body without representation through objects, situations, and traces. Engaging these phenomena, I am echoing the work of Félix González-Torres to give new voice to queer resistance.

John Paul Morabito, For Félix (yellow like sorrow), 2021, cotton and glass beads, 88″ x 45″

In this series, ornate handwoven textiles are removed from the loom before they are complete, leaving lengths of unwoven warps that are threaded with glass beads. The tapestries enact queer form by focusing on the unwoven fringe rather than the body of the weaving. Occupying the space between tapestry and wall, the beaded fringe dangles in a state of liminality that is neither fully included nor separate from the textile. It is the queerest element of the weaving. From this orientation, For Félix is a border that retraces the beaded curtains of Félix González-Torres and their location in the passageways between one space and another.

John Paul Morabito, For Félix (yellow like sorrow), 2021, cotton and glass beads, 88″ x 45″ 

Conceived in response to the pandemic, the works produce an anachronistic simultaneity that connects the COVID-19 and AIDS crises. I write these words as a queer person born during the early years of AIDS; although I was too young to have been on the front lines, I came of age and into my queerness in the shadow of a plague. Facing this legacy amidst a new pandemic in 2020, I have turned to the shimmering beaded curtains of Félix González-Torres and their manifestation of queer liminality, the material fragility of the body, and the passage between life and death. In response, my painstakingly hand-beaded fringe tapestries function as a memorial and material love letter. For Félix realizes an aesthetic of splendor and dilapidation where decadently beaded sections are juxtaposed with raw threads to produce visual decay. These glittering tapestries sparkle with grief, reminding that queer resistance happens in the space where joy and sorrow meet. For Félix emerges out of this sensibility to proclaim, in the face of ostracization, persecution, and state-sanctioned illness, that we continue to shine.


Listen to John Paul Morabito’s presentation during the
Textile Society of America 2020 Virtual Symposium
Recorded Sessions – 3B – Individual Papers: Journeys


Transdisciplinary weaver John Paul Morabito (they/them) engages queerness, ethnicity, and the sacred through the medium of tapestry reimagined in the digital age. Their work outputs woven forms, moving images, and performances that look toward a future-past horizon where one can exalt queer grace. Morabito serves on the faculty at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago as Assistant Professor, Adj. of Fiber and Material Studies.