Taking in the Laundry

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t more than a little sad to see my installation “Laundry Day” come down today. What a great chapter it was for me and my practice.

And as with many larger commissions (or grants) like this I was required to write an impact report for the funder, explaining the impact or outcomes of the project. And while it is too soon to know the full impact of this project, and it would be presumptuous of me to write about how it impacted the viewers, I shared the following initial thoughts with the presenters, the Kansas City Art Commission, and the Art in the Loop.

 

ilusdavispark

Ilus Davis Park without Laundry, Kansas City, Missouri

laundrydayMy temporary outdoor installation, “Laundry Day” in Ilus Davis Park gave me an opportunity to take my artwork off of the wall and out of the private setting that it is often exhibited in. But more than that, “Laundry Day” represented a significantly new method of working.

As a lifelong photographer, I have spent my career concerned with the archival quality of my images, managing ways to halt the effects of the elements to ensure the pieces will last for as long as possible. Laundry Day was completely antithetical to that in that I was working in concert with the elements and the effect of time, letting the impermanence of the images enhance the story telling aspect of the piece. Giving the piece over to the elements (and to the public) required me to relinquish any control of the artwork, therefore minimizing its preciousness and freeing me as an artist. The fact that one of the image sheets* was cut and removed from the laundry line enhanced my feeling of giving over my art to circumstance. 

stolenlaundryIn addition to the new psychological and emotional responses I experienced during the making of Laundry Day, it also represented a new way of physically creating. While the things I was exploring conceptually remained the same as my prior work, this was the first piece I created where I was not solely responsible for the craftsmanship. I utilized archival photographs from the Missouri Valley Collection, and contracted both the fabrication of the large metal laundry posts and the printing of the fabric. This is a significant departure; in my previous work I have done everything from the original image capture to final framing in my studio. This newfound way of working pushes me to think of my work differently, allowing me to work on a larger scale, and further experiment with the materials I use to tell the story of the imagery.

While the immediate outcomes of the project are internal to my art practice, I am also now able to envision the longterm outcomes that might result. I hope to speak to other libraries about the possibility of a similar project as a means to get their photographic archive seen by the public. And I have responded to a larger call for public art that I would have previously thought out of reach. “Laundry Day” is proving to be a powerful first step down a brand new path, one that I hadn’t been able to fully visualize or appreciate before.

 

*At the time I wrote the impact statement only one had been cut down – by the time we took the installation down two images had been stolen approximately a month apart. I am strangely okay and fascinated by this. The height of the line would require a ladder or some other tool to reach the top of the fabric where it was clear that it had been cut with a knife, both requiring forethought on the part of the “Art Collector”.

2 Comments

  1. brenda winter November 17, 2016 at 5:36 pm #

    I love the idea of the Laundry in the park. Thanks for keeping us on your list. Anne would have loved your outdoor exhibit. Ellen would have loved it too.

    Let us know if you get out to LA. We have a bedroom for you both.

    Love,

    Brenda

    • Chris November 18, 2016 at 4:13 pm #

      Brenda, thank you so much! You are right, I think Anne would have loved the laundry! I think of her so often and know she would have been proud of all that is going on in the town she loved.

      peace,
      Chris

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