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May 27, 2011

Hanging Out With the Fort Ethan Allen Laundry Line

IMG_3042 This garganutuan clothesline hung across Fort Ethan Allen Park, which appeared earlier this week, is actually a work of art, courtesy of Essex Junction artist Ann Laberge. She describes her guerilla art as "a gift." But the 74-year-old man walking the path beneath it Thursday morning sure didn't see it that way. 

"Do you know anything about this nonsense?" he spat in my direction. I was stepping over clumps of freshly mown grass, trying to photograph the faraway t-shirts and socks. I explained to him that it was the work of a local artist who wanted to promote the use of clotheslines and, you know, just to generally surprise and delight people. 

Photo(3)I was one of the surprised and delighted. When I first saw a huge navy blue sheet flapping in the wind from Route 15, I thought someone's laundry had flown up into the trees, or that a circus with colorful tent flags had come to town. But as I got closer, I could see the clothesline stretched out across the width of the park, attached on either side to the tippy-tops of the pine trees.

Laberge didn't want to talk about her Fort Ethan Allen piece — she prefers an element of mystery surrounding her public art — but on her website, she describes another clothesline project. "I love the look of laundry hanging on the clothesline, the fragrance, the knowledge of others living close by going about their daily lives." 

It is getting rarer to see laundry hanging out (in some places it’s prohibited). I wonder what’s been lost and what’s been gained."

It's a wonder the bright pink, yellow, lime green and white laundry wasn't lost in Thursday's gusty wind. From the looks of it, the clothes are fastened to the wire with what appear to be extra-large clothespins. 

Below them, runners kept their eyes straight ahead, a groundskeeper tooled around in a giant lawn mower and the old man bitched about taxpayer money, which he was convinced had been used in the production of the artwork. Apropos of nothing, he told me that he had served his country for more than 20 years, but he still couldn't afford to retire. Then he blamed the ridiculousness of public art, clotheslines and the whole country on President Obama. 

It wasn't worth trying to convince this man otherwise. "Well, at least it's not still raining, right?" I offered. We both looked up at the clear, blue sky, the socks and t-shirts fluttering wildly like flags.


You got a zoning permit for that there "installation"?

I live in the fort and my initial response was definitely more "WTF" than "OMG awesome!!!" But that's art--entirely subjective. I will admit that, while the giant clothesline strikes me as more weird than anything, it's kind of fun to have something pop up like that every now and again.

LOVED the installation, weather-beaten as it is now looking. Art is to make you think and have an emotional reaction to it. This made me laugh, think about my mother who always used a clothesline, and reminded me of a simpler time.

When I lived in Spain in the Sixties, a cognac company sprinkled odd hilltops in the country with HUGE BLACK BULLS made of wood. The first time I saw one, I must have done a triple-take. What a wonderfully simple "ad"!

There's some pretty intense ageism here. Innovation--and the appreciation of it--happens at all stages of like. It's never helpful to perpetuate the crotchety/miserly old man image. Was this article improved by attention to the man's age (and its implications)? What purpose did calling him an "old man" serve if not to paint a caricature? It's just too easy to rely on stereotypes, particularly when they make the speaker feel younger and more progressive. Again, art, progress, and innovation belong to all people who want them--this guy, regardless of his age, just didn't want them.

"Was this article improved by attention to the man's age"

If not for the random comments of the only person around, there would have been nothing to say about this.

As always, creative and thoughtful! I love it; it's totally unique and the message is so important.

I am one of the LUCKY Officer's Row (Dalton Drive) residents that gets to enjoy this spectacle every day! I thank Ann LaBarge for creating this charming art installation with a message. Hearing the "laundry" flapping in the wind in the evenings is soothing and a gentle reminder of what used to be a common sight back in the day. I have taken many photos and even got some shots from my 3rd story window last week when TreeWorks came to unfurl and repin after the storms. Thank you Ann! This was an enormous undertaking and at a lot of expense, I'm sure. Does Orton Lyman know about this? He would be THRILLED!!!

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