May 3, 2015
Baskets of clothes sit atop washing machines inside the packed house at the Spincycle laundromat in lower Remington. Many people here have come intending to do laundry, naturally, but others have come to catch a pop-up music and art exhibition called “Love on the Line: Dirty Laundry.” Some have come to do both.
“We encouraged everyone to bring quarters and a load to wash,” chuckles Melani Douglass, founder of the traveling Family Arts Museum, which is presenting the exhibition. The idea, explains Douglass, who earned a master’s degree in curatorial practice this spring from Maryland Institute College of Art, is “to celebrate the ancient forms, everyday rituals, prescriptions, and tonics for getting the stains out of laundry and life.”
Surrounded by decorated mannequins, poet Femi the DriFish reads beneath colorful portraits, hung with clothespins, painted by artist Pierre Bennu. There’s also Brazilian dance and a performance by vocalist Jasmine Pope of J. Pope andFunk Friday. “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” she sings, a nod to the still reverberating Freddie Gray protests.
Nearby, the show’s “domestic artist in residence,” Ms. Penny, who works at Spincycle, cleans and folds clothes, as a volunteer collects “recipes” for removing stains of both the fiber and emotional variety. “Sometimes all you need is a gentle wash, other times you need bleach. And sometimes, you need a professional,” she says.
“You can also learn a lot about people from their laundry,” adds Adonna Nissi, a member of the all-ages Baltimore Girls collective, with a smile. “You might see a middle-aged woman doing her wash, or a mom doing her kid’s clothes, and assume you know everything about their situation. Then, you’ll see her pulling out a sexy pair of underwear and you realize, ‘Oh, she’s got something going on.’”