In the wash

What came out of 1078 Gallery’s open-entry call is a mixed and fascinating bag

“Feminalia Angus,” by Charlene Abinante.

“Feminalia Angus,” by Charlene Abinante.

PHOTO by jason cassidy

Dirty Laundry shows Aug. 14-Sept. 6, at the 1078 Gallery. Reception: Sept. 4, 6-8 p.m.
1078 Gallery
820 Broadway

It was exciting to stand next to the table full of art on submission day. The 1078 Gallery’s new exhibit, Dirty Laundry, wouldn’t open for a couple of days, but standing in the gallery and talking to the artists as they dropped off their works turned out to be a good way to get a feel for the project.

And, as luck would have it, the first artist I talked to brought in a piece that neatly offered a jumping-off point for discussing how one might approach the show’s premise—“discarded clothing repurposed into innovative works of art.”

Kara Bayma’s fairly straightforward piece, “Water Is the New Black,” was only the second work of art she’s ever shown. It’s basically a couple pieces of glass glued together to look like an aquarium, and inside there are fish made out of just the tags from old clothes (she wanted to keep the garments intact so she could still donate them) plus a statistic spelled out at the bottom: “It takes 700 gallons [of water] to make one T-shirt.”

“That’s a beautiful response to what we’re going for,” said Trevor Lalaguna, a Chico State art instructor and the 1078 Gallery volunteer who organized the show.

The inspiration for Dirty Laundry came about a year ago while Lalaguna was driving on the freeway, he said. Off the side of the road he saw a clothesline in someone’s yard covered in laundry and what looked like an odd white sculpture next to the line. He couldn’t stop at the time, but upon returning down the same stretch of road, he pulled off to satisfy his curiosity and discovered that it was just three white shirts waiting in a pile.

“What I look for in art is something that provokes curiosity,” he said. “I thought it would be cool to format a show based on that one glimpse.”

Pat Collentine drops off a collaborative piece (“USS Lollipop”) to the 1078 Gallery by him and his partner Susan Larsen.

Photo by jason cassidy

So, with that three-shirt pile in mind, Lalaguna filled a bunch of “laundry bags” with three items of used clothing each. Some bags had matching pieces, some had clashing, and none of the artists who paid the $10 entry fee knew what was inside the bag of raw materials until after they had purchased it. Once you paid, you were guaranteed a spot in the show, with the understanding that whatever you created would have to include something from all three items in the bag and your piece had to be able to be hung from a clothesline.

“I always wanted to do something that was a little more community-based at 1078,” Lalaguna said of the setup, which he compared to that of the open-entry shows at the now-defunct Manas Artspace, which also were instigated with prompts—colors, bags of junk, vinyl records, etc.

These open shows tend to attract artists from a variety of backgrounds, and Lalaguna said that many of those who delivered works for this show had never shown their work, and some weren’t even regular artists.

“I think that’s beautiful,” he said, excited that the spark of the show led to artistic creation and brought new artists into the fold. “You start a new community of conversation,” he added.

And the community’s wide range of responses to the prompt (approximately half of the 40 bags purchased were resubmitted as art) will at the very least pique a curiosity as to what the items of clothing were before being transformed.

Some made clothes from the clothes, like Sheryl Cummings, who fashioned a handsome “Voyeur’s Vest” (take free peeks behind the secret doors) out of a bikini top, a Super Mario shirt and a V-neck sweater. Others went way out there, like ceramicist Patti Lloyd, whose sweet, dark, candy-themed mobile, “Want Some Candy Little Girl,” hides its source material well.

Sharon Nilsson, owner of the Funky Trunk vintage clothing store, augmented her bag with goodies from her own shop (including a pair of knee-high boots with zippers up the side that she made into sleeves) to create a wearable steampunk-looking outfit.

After the initial look through the submissions, my favorite was probably “Feminalia Angus” by ceramicist Charlene Abinante. Using a bag full of men’s trousers, she sewed together a giant gray worm and then stuffed its mouth with a bunch of little ceramic worms. It’s gross, cuddly and wonderful.

The reception won’t happen until Sept. 4 (at 6 p.m.), but there, a panel of judges will give out prizes (including gift certificates donated by local second-hand clothing boutiques—Funky Trunk, Boho and Yard Sale) for the top pieces in fun categories like “dirtiest” work and “most creative use of material.”