Holding On with the ClothesPin Project

Alt txt Clothespins painted with fingerprints, surrounded by rope
We say “I’ve got your back” in times of trouble. Yet when threatened, we often close ranks to protect “our own.” We join together against great threats, yet divide when conquered by internal division. We are served by love, and enslaved by distrust. We Carry The Rope Which Binds Us.

I originated the idea for and proposed The ClothesPin Project to the small arts organization I help lead.

The Corvallis Art Guild faced cancellation of its fifty-ninth yearly August Clothesline Sale of Art due to the COVID-19 pandemic. State guidelines prohibited large outdoor gatherings, and we knew social and physical distancing would prevent sales of heart-focused, hand-made artworks. One year short of its 60th run, there was no clear path through the gathering darkness, and no apparent alternative to a depressing announcement and another X on the summer’s event calendar. What to do?

During the organization’s first membership meeting on Zoom in early May, 2020, I floated the idea of a project that would pivot from the events’ Clothesline brand to focus on oversized, yet inexpensive clothespins. I attached the concept of Holding On, which felt like both a universal experience of adapting to a pandemic, and the perfect description of what clothespins do to clotheslines. I challenged members to create art which explored their experiences of holding on through times of great challenge.

The idea was enthusiastically supported, and the Guild ran with the project.

Three months later, more than thirty members of the group had produced more than eighty pieces of art, an online gallery, and a crowded exhibit in a downtown storefront window known for its display of locally created art.

Photo triptych Silent Semaphore
Isolation can intensify human bonds, even while making them more difficult. Ropes can measure distance, even while pulling us together. How can we signal our feelings from afar? Dirty laundry can semaphore in silence.

While helping to coordinate the project, I completed the two of my half-dozen concepts shown above. I also designed and constructed the fixtures on which members’ clothespins were exhibited, and photographed many members’ 2D pieces for the online gallery.

Where to see it: We Carry The Rope Which Binds Us and Silent Semaphore are on display in the “Holding On” show, in the Footwise Shoes window at 301 SW Madison Avenue in Corvallis, Oregon through August 26, 2020. The online gallery is here.