Dichotomy of Laundry

By Joanne A Calitri   |   July 18, 2023
Poet Laureate Melinda Palacio and artist Colleen M. Kelly at the Dichotomy of Laundry exhibit at the Silo Gallery in the Funk Zone (photo by Joanne A Calitri)

Artist Colleen M. Kelly and Santa Barbara Poet Laureate Melinda Palacio are exhibiting a collaboration at the Silo Gallery in the Funk Zone from now through July 22. There will be an artist talk on July 15 at 4 pm to discuss the finer details behind the art and poems. Art and poetry are subjective to the viewer, and are usually influenced by the back stories to both, so I would suggest experiencing the exhibit on your own first and then attending the talk on the 15th to find where you may be at with your interpretations. I also urge you to indulge in a purchase to support the artists and the gallery.

I attended the opening on July 7, which was packed with noted artists – always a good sign that the art community comes out to support its peers. Seen were Tom Pazderka, Sol Hill, Bay Hallowell and Richard Ross, and Jana Brody, all nested between guests of the artist, gallery owner Bonnie Rubenstein, and Palacio.

The first impressions entering the gallery focus on the primitive 18 “cookie-cutter” template cut outs of short-sleeve dresses on various shades of red Japanese gampi paper, some with stamped writings on them, some burnt, and hung with wooden clothes pins to basic wire coat hangers. In front of the dresses are 27 sheets of off-white Japanese gampi paper, each burnt via incense with indistinguishable morse codes in them, also hung with wooden clothes pins on wire coat hangers on a white cord (clothes line) from the ceiling – quite a disturbing scene in the tranquilness of the tiny gallery space and raises many questions. It certainly feels like more of a museum exhibition than singular pieces of art being pitched for sale at a gallery. Red is historically a confrontational color, one used for arousal in advertising. The cut-out paper doll-like short-sleeve dresses are either plain or have SOS stamped on them. Many connotations arise – little girls, sarcasm, conflicting emotions, wire hanger abortions – why 18 dresses and 27 morse coded papers? Why paper not fabric? Why short sleeved, and the title, “Dichotomy of Laundry” – women hung out to dry?

Talking briefly with Kelly at the opening, she first wanted to clarify that her name is “Colleen M. Kelly” and not any other related manner of spelling to find her work online. From there we ventured into which came first, the code or the dress? She replied, “The code came first, I was so angry that Roe v. Wade got reversed that I had to get it out somehow and I went outside and started burning paper. The red dresses on coat hangers evolved from that and are part of the issues of domestic violence against women. Red is the color of blood and revolution – it symbolizes issues being dealt with by Iranian women, the missing women in Mexico, and is the logo for the MMIW – Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women USA. This current work is a series that is evolving.”

She further shared that when she protested the overturn of Roe v. Wade in Santa Barbara, there were only two generations present: hers and the young women who knew nothing of the issues prior. “The young women today have no idea what issues were being dealt with about abortions. Artists totally have a voice to get people aware of the issues.”

On the far wall are the five poems Palacio wrote in response to the art works by Kelly, who had commissioned her to write “a singular poem” about the work. Palacio in our opening interview said, “I’ve known and worked with Kelly prior. When she asked me to write an ekphrastic poem about this body of work, I did not write anything immediately, but was thinking about it. I viewed it online and contemplated it for a long time. She contacted me to find out if I had forgotten, and I then went to the writing phase. Once I started however, I felt that one poem could not express the entire art. I could not stop writing and came up with five poems. The first is titled, “Woman,” from there the poems in order are “Hangers,” “Amanda,” “Hannah,” and “Dear Ruthie.” The poems are in chronological order from a young girl through the key phases of a woman’s life up to the last one being written by a grandmother. I sent them to Kelly in an email saying, well you asked for one, but I wrote five, more like a small book!” 

As always, art is what you make it, from your frame of reference, so your view of laundry just might be rewashed. The dresses and codes start at $200 each with the poems priced on request.  

411: www.silo118.com


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