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Hanging Out With the Fort Ethan Allen Laundry Line


Published May 27, 2011 at 5:07 a.m.

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. 

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.


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