The origins of “On the Line” project go back to Morocco in the 1990’s when Susan Ossman worked in Casablanca, where laundry strung across balconies and terraces inspired her painting. Susan pursued work on the theme of domestic labor for two decades, leading to On the Line, a solo exhibition at the Brandstater gallery at La Sierra University in Riverside, California in 2013. The exhibition explored laundry as a way of contemplating our changing relationship to the environment , landscapes and other people. What is lost when the nearly universal practice of drying one’s clothes in the wind and the sun is abandoned?
On the Line: A Second Look further explored this question. Beatriz Mejia-Krumbein, then director of the Brandstater gallery, worked with graduate students and artists to shape a new exhibition that developed a dialogue with the works and concepts of the initial exhibition. The “Second Look” remade the gallery and extended the range of media. It further showed how focusing on a seemingly insignificant aspect of daily life can lead both artists and scholars to make important discoveries about cultural and social differences and humans’ changing relationship to nature.
Viewers reacted to both exhibitions by sending the artists photographs, poems and stories about their own clotheslines. This led to the idea of using ethnographic methods to developing an exhibition as a site for collecting “laundry stories,” shaping performances, participatory art works and public dialogue.
In 2015 Hanging Out expanded the circle of the project. Its location at the Riverside Arts council’s “Afterimage” maker space Gallery at the University Village outdoor mall made this exhibition accessible to a broader public than the previous exhibitions. Dancers, musicians and spoken word performers worked on a flexible stage developed by the visual artists in coordination with a team of ethnographers. Circles for “laundry talk” and participatory compositions engaged the public.
Afterimage Gallery, Riverside, California
Hanging Out was the third stage of this ongoing project. The exhibition was designed by the members of Susan Ossman’s “Art to Ethnography” seminar at UCR. The exhibition featured works by Beatriz Mejia-Krumbein, Jimmy Centano, Josette Dacosta, Monica Landeros and Carol Hendrickson, among others. Performances include an original musical composition by Dhiren Panniker, a spoken word evening led by writer Deb Durham and dance by Casey Auvant and Sue Roginski. Graduate students from the “Art to Ethnography” seminar joined artists and performers from California and beyond to further examine the once nearly universal practice of drying laundry on the line.
As Hanging Out participants prepared this exhibition they discovered an unexpected wealth of stories surrounding the day-to-day work of washing and drying clothes. A task that invokes feelings of tedium can also evoke memories of profound emotion, both poignant and joyful. This simple chore leads some people to recall the past while others associate clothes on the line with far-off countries. Laundry talk can lead to thinking about how conceptions of cleanliness or women’s work or our relationship to nature change over time and across cultures. Hanging Out asked everyone to ask: What does laundry mean? The collection of these stories led to the conception of a “Poetics of Laundry” Archive.
Arts and Ethnogrphers: Casey Avaunt, Jimmy Centeno, Josette Dacosta, Deb Durham, Rachael Dzikonski, Erin Gould, Carol Hendrickson, Erica Johnson, Danae G. Khorasani, Shelly Guyton, Monica Landeros, Lindsey Lester, Anh Ly, Valerie Mendez, Beatriz Mejia-Krumbein, Stephanie Miller, Dhiren Panikker, Frank Ramos, Sue Roginski, Anthony Shadduck, Elizabeth Stela, James Yoshizawa.
Read more about “Hanging Out” here.
On the Line: A Second Look
Brandstater Gallery, Riverside, California
March 4-11, 2013
Anthropologists and artists worked together to research clothelines and remake Susan Ossman’s oriignal exhibition. Gallery director Beatriz Mejia-Krumbein worked with the interdisciplinary team to shape a dialogues with some of Susan’s works and extended both the range of media and the exploration of how focusing on a seemingly insignificant aspect of daily life can lead both artists and anthropologists to important discoveries.
Participants: Audrey Coleman-Macheret, Ken Crane, Lisa DeLance, Robert Finch, Danae Gmuer-Johnson, Erin Gould, Celso Jaquez, Jared Katz, Joshua Liashenko, Astara Light, German Loffler, Shahab Malik, Beatriz Mejia-Krumbein, Kara Miller, Tim Musso, Susan Ossman, Katherine Parsons, James Phillips, Christina Schwenkel, Duncan Simcoe.
Read more about “On the Line: A Second Look” here.
On the Line
by Susan Ossman
Brandstater Gallery, Riverside, California
11 February – 4 March 2013