Three years ago a pair of artists and long time friends got together to do a collaborative show and decided to….iron in public? The experience was so much fun, and such a success they repeated it last year in Project Space. This year “Art Laundry: Evidence of Life” will be staged in Compass Gallery from August 8-11, although the non-performance portion of the show, featuring drawings by Schneider, and Hull’s monoprints and quilts, will be up from Aug 2-31.
Who are these artists, and how does ironing relate to art? The artists are well known local painter, teacher and fiber artist Bonnie Hull and her friend California based painter Carolyn Schneider. Hull explains, “The idea of “Art Laundry” is to examine the overlap of traditional “women’s work” with traditional women’s art work (quilting) and contemporary thought and studio practice.” The original idea was to hang quilts, drawings, and have a fairly traditional show, a plan that derailed when Schneider confessed to Hull that she wanted to iron. This “public ironing” impulse related both to Schneider’s actual enjoyment of ironing and the relationship between ironing and Hull’s quilting. The show morphed into an open-ended installation/performance, with Schneider ironing, visitors bringing in items to iron, and talking about the memories the activity held for them.
Hull and Schneider found that the humble, basic act of ironing provided a connection for visitors. Everyone had a different idea of how to iron, or a story about who taught them to iron. Conversations sprang up around the topics of art making and home making, family and memory, and the artists realized they had created something that “had its own energy and interest and wacky sense of community.”
The second year of “Art Laundry” will be familiar to Salem art lovers because it was a part of SAA’s Project Space. In that space Hull and Schneider again hung their art, brought in the ironing boards and allowed the visitors and the ironing to take their course. Schneider, a theater lover, had brought props and masks the first year, and repeated this in the Project Space exhibit. Hull observes that “the masks gave people more freedom to be spontaneous.” She promises that there will be “surprise props” included in this year’s event.
For its third year, “Art Laundry” will be located in Compass Gallery, where Hull and Schneider will be hanging drawings beginning August 2, and performing their “public ironing” project daily August 8-11. Hull observes that each installation was different, both because of the visitors and because of the space. She is looking forward to seeing the changes the intimate space of Compass Gallery will bring to the event.
Hull believes that “the success of any collaborative performance project is totally dependent on people coming and becoming a part of it.” She remembers affectionately the people who have made this project a success in the past; people who have brought in laundry, including an entire set of bedsheets; people who took off their shirt to iron; the man who brought 30 shirts the first day of the installation and said he now had ironed shirts for the rest of the year; the people who came to talk, knit, wear masks and tell stories. She hopes people will again come to talk, to iron, to make connections and have fun. The gallery celebration for “Art Laundry: Evidence of Life” is Thursday August 11th, 5-7 pm. Gallery hours: 10am-5pm. Mondays-Saturdays.