Playing Dirty:

Feb 22 • Art, ARTSY SMARTSY1 Comment

“Laughing at Laundry”
Feb. 26 • 6-9 p.m.
ACME Art Studios
711 N. 5th Street • 632-7442

CHORES GALORE: Two local artists make a satirical statement on daily housewive duties through sculptures such as “Esther Williams Does Laundry”. Courtesy photo.

For decades, generations of tiny little girls were fed tiny little lies about housework. Led by a score of shiny Disney films to believe that it was easy, fun and didn’t make us sweat like pigs, house quickly became the most popular childhood game of our time. As we donned mini aprons and played with plastic household replicas, we looked forward to the days when we had our very own vacuums, ovens and ironing boards. Years later, as grown-ups, we realize that a spoonful of sugar doesn’t always make the medicine go down (unless you count the 5 p.m. cocktail), and Snow White only whistled while she worked because she had seven helpers. Local artists Sandra Ihly and Katherine Wolf Webb recently decided to not only accept that fact but have a little non-Disney related fun with those piles of laundry that show up week after week.

“Laundry is one of those necessary evils that must be acknowledged, and one can either laugh or cry in contemplation and completion,” Webb says. “We are choosing to laugh.”

The idea for the new show all began with one of Ihly’s sculptures: mannequin legs sticking out of the top of an early electric portable washing machine. “I called it ‘Esther Williams Does Laundry’,” Ihly says. “It is a favorite piece in my studio and always elicits a smile from people who come in. I suggested to Katherine that it might be fun to expand on that theme. She is amazingly talented and clever, and she took up the challenge.”

Calling her colleague’s collection “amazing and amusing,” Webb quickly admits that her work has a bit more angst and tears than Ihly’s. “The central theme is obviously dirty clothes versus clean clothes and all that pertains to them,” Webb says. “We are endeavoring to look at the subject from every possibly ‘normal’ angle and perhaps every unthought-of angle, in hopes of eliciting a chuckle or a thought.”

So when it comes to an endless chore that we can’t escape, what exactly is there to laugh about? Ihly says not much—and that’s the whole idea behind their joined laundry-themed collections, which she is calling “feminist narrative pieces.” “Hardly anything about laundry is funny and that is part of the joke and the challenge,” she says. “[Webb and I] both remember when Betty Friedan’s ‘Feminine Mystique’ book came out and both being of a rebellious nature, we found art an acceptable way to run away from home without leaving.” Webb also credits their similar childhoods with the creative kismet in the show. “Sandra and I have a great deal in common,” she says. “Our generation and our upbringing really help us stir the pot.”

Now all grown up, both women have been served well by their artistic endeavors. Webb studied studio art at Hollins University, going on to be represented in cities all over North Carolina. Ihly went to Chapel Hill and was reviewed in the New York Times as a “disturbing and sexually charged” artist. Bringing that experience to their new show is all about getting a reaction. All artists ever really want, say both women, is to start a conversation with their work.

“People who come to our show will see funny, crazy assemblages,” says Webb, who requires that all patrons of the show say “assemblages” in a French accent. “They will include things that are recognizable but assembled in a unique fashion. They will see paintings both realistic and abstract, funny and sad. The show will be amusing but also thought provoking.”

“I think this show will make people smile,” adds Ihly. “And after this winter, that is a good thing.”

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One Response to Playing Dirty:

  1. Kim LaFreniere says:

    The correct date is Friday, Feb 25th!! While the show will be hanging for a month, the artists and opening will be on Friday (tomorrow).

    Thanks!

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