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.



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”.


  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.



    • 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.


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