The clothespin artist stands at the front steps of the Art Institute of Chicago in the summer of 1994. My fellow college freshman friends and I approach this man selling clothespin necklaces and tshirts with simple clothespin silhouettes.
While signing free xerox prints of clothespins, he teaches us the meaning of clothespin art. People can read their own personal meanings into the clothespin icon. As the artist, the meaning for his work is what the viewer brings. His explanations would become very much an influence on my outlook on art to this day. Spudart and my potato theories have their origin from this clothespin artist.
He opens up a small shoebox sized container with clothespin necklaces inside for $1.00 each. As I was deciding which one to purchase, he was explaining the criteria that people use when selecting a clothespin necklace. “Some people like their clothespin to be perfect with no flaws. Others like one that is unique and has its own personality. Like this one.” He pointed to a clothespin that had a little knot in the wood. I happily selected that unique one.
I proudly wore that necklace to all art openings and events for the next few years. Pictured below, with clothespin around my neck, Tammy Zych, Dima Strakovsky and I visit the circa 1996 Art Chicago show at Navy Pier.
The clothespin necklace is buried in my closet today. His signed print still hangs in my dining room. I put it in a frame made of the same type of raw wood that traditional clothespins are made of. I wonder where this clothespin artist is today–and if he’s still doing his clothespin art.
If you happen to know anything about the clothespin artist, please leave your thoughts and experiences in the comments. Thank you.
The clothespin artist’s name is Paul Zubrzycki. The Chicago Tribune wrote about him on September 9, 1987, An Artist, Pinned Down.
Have you been wondering about the clothespins?
They’re spray-paint-stenciled on sidewalks around the Merchandise Mart, the west Loop and River North. Pictures of them are taped to lampposts. They’re even in the gift shop of the Museum of Contemporary Art, in the form of magnets and buttons.
Just plain black clothespins against a white background.
The clothespin man is artist/photographer Paul Zubrzycki, and he started planting the ubiquitous pins around town late last winter, first on the lampposts and then on sidewalks.
“The reason I do it is that it’s public art and it’s a way of demonstrating that the most fundamental thing an artist can do is
communicate,” he says. “I’m reaching people with the idea of the clothespin. It’s a common object; it’s interesting to look at and it has a neutral quality.
“What does the clothespin mean? It has no meaning. It just is what it is. I’ve reduced it to an act of communication.”
Actually, it communicated Zubrzycki to jail overnight after police caught him leaving the scene of a fresh clothespin near the Sears Tower. “I told them what I was doing. I cooperated. . . . The charge was criminal damage to public property. I felt I should have been given a warning; (jail) came as a surprise.”
There’s been no spray-painting since then, but Zubrzycki is now working on a series of 10 prints that “deal with reconstructing the clothespin as a visual form. It’s a progressive set of images. It changes the clothespin so that although it’s still recognizable as a clothespin, it’s been idealized.” What next? Zubrzycki gets a dreamy look.
“Sculpture. I’m thinking of a major sculpture based on the clothespin for downtown Chicago.
SOURCE: Barbara Sullivan.