Thursday, July 10, 2014

Digressions: Clotheslines and Laundry Art

I love doing laundry. I love the sounds of the washing machine; the smells of laundry soap and bleach; the touch and feel of clothes fresh from the dryer; the action of folding clothes into neat little packages and the sight of clothes hanging on a clothesline undulating in the breeze. I love ironing too.

I am told that most women deeply dislike all of the above (women’s diaries going back centuries are filled with complaints about their laundry load) and so I am not sure where my love for it comes from?

Perhaps it comes from watching my grandmother Moynahan in the dark, damp basement on Marentette Avenue washing her handsewn clothes in her wringer/washer? Or perhaps it comes from memories of my mother ironing in the dining room on Sussex Drive on Saturday mornings and the smells and sounds of starch and steam?

Who knows?

I am not alone. Other artists, poets, photographers and painters, appreciate and feature the subject of "clotheslines and laundry" in their work. I created the journal page below to have some fun with the subject of "laundry".

Art journal page "Laundry"
Artist: Cindi Moynahan-Foreman
Central to the feminist analysis of laundry and clotheslines is the whole subject of women's unpaid work in the home.

Laundry and clotheslines are also:
  • places where women gather and talk together
  • places where the most private things are put quietly on display
  • reasons to linger outdoors in the sun quietly witnessing nature, in awareness and synchronicity with the weather
 Jeffrey T. Larson explored the theme of clotheslines beautifully (below) and what strikes me most about his work is how the woman is never fully seen, always obscured and half hidden. Such an interesting metaphor.

Artist: Jeffrey T. Larson
"Feminist Art and the Maternal" by Andrea Liss tells the story about the  Mother Art Laundry Works

Mother Arts Laundry Works was formed in 1973 to address the issue of artists as mothers.

In 1977, Mother Art created a series of art shows and performances in laundromats throughout Los Angeles, from Venice to Echo Park. Helen Million recalls, “The whole process of water and cleansing is such a spiritual experience in many cultures. We wanted to elevate the idea of washing from the mundane into the public sphere.”  Mother Art formally stopped working together in 1986.

Stills from the Mother Art trailer
I recently came across this house on my morning walk in Centretown with Lexington and just knew I needed to paint it.

Backyard in Centretown
Centretown Laundry (water colour)
Artist: Cindi Moynahan-Foreman

Clotheslines were common in Manhattan 30 years ago. Not any more (*). I wonder what Allen Ginsberg would have said about that?

Artist: Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg, “I sat for decades at morning breakfast tea looking out my kitchen window, one day recognized my own world the familiar background, a giant wet brick-walled undersea Atlantis garden, waving ailanthus (“stinkweed”) “Trees of Heaven,” with chimney pots along Avenue A topped by Stuyvesant Town apartments’ upper floors two blocks distant on 14th Street, I focus’d on the raindrops along the clothesline. “Things are symbols of themselves,” said Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. New York City August 18, 1984,” (1984), Gelatin silver print, printed 1984–97, 16 1/2 x 11 in. (42 x 28 cm)

Clothesline and Laundry Links of Interest

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