#1 in a series… the best of the mary’zine that never made it to print…

Scorpio [horoscope for Sunday, February 8, 2004]:
Listen a minute, Scorp. Your appliances, your furniture, the walls of your home are crying out. “Fix me! Fix me!” It’s pathetic! How much longer can you ignore their cry? The message is loud and clear: It isn’t enough to just capture the castle. You have to maintain it.

Anyone who has entered my home knows that my credo is: “I believe that housekeeping is an art.” To that end, I have constructed a Housekeeping as Art Installation Project in my condo that I call “I Was Just About To….” This installation was originally meant to be fluid and ever-changing—responsive to the vicissitudes of life—but it tends to stay pretty much the same, gathering dust (literally and figuratively), which I believe only adds to the authenticity of my artistic vision. In the sense that housekeeping can be seen as “keeping the house pretty much as it is,” I offer the following Installation Art ideas as the perfect hom[e]age to the house and to me, its estranged -wife.

Visitors, art patrons, and utility men (your PG&E, your SBC, your Comcast), should they be allowed to pass through the portal into my home-slash-gallery, are greeted by the sight of a modern-day vacuum cleaner, with all of its accoutrements, in the dead center of the living room. This is a bold statement that references the sheer futility of modern civilization’s obsession with cleanliness and the elimination of pathogens. “I Was Just About To Vacuum” is at once a comment on the good intentions of the Artist and the never-ending work of “keeping house” (as if it’s going to get up and leave if you don’t watch it every minute), especially since one of the Artist’s companions is a big old hairy cat. As part of the “Vacuum” project, tufts of Pookie’s hair are artfully placed (by him) in widespread patterns covering large portions of the once-tasteful, once-light-gray carpet, like a Buddhist monk’s mandala painstakingly created in colored sand—with the difference being that the cat-mandala is not destroyed immediately after completion. Supplementing the cat-hair arrangements are individual Kleenexes covering stains also produced by Pookie’s inner (and I do mean inner) process, some wrapped tightly in hair, others the raw materials of creativity, intestinal division.

Off to the side of “I Was Just About To Vacuum the Floor” [alternatively titled, “I Was Just About to Shave the Cat”] is an auxiliary installation called “I Was Just About To Do the Laundry.” It will come as no surprise that this project consists of two or more piles of dirty clothes, artfully divided into light and dark (symbolizing, of course, the duality of the material world), with a squirt bottle of “Shout!” standing at the ready. “Shout!,” of course, provides a fascinating subtext that can be analyzed on many different levels. This is an interactive exhibit, and the visitor, or patron, if she or he chooses, may apply “Shout!” to the many paint stains that are randomly distributed on the clothing worn to a recent—OK, not so recent—painting intensive.

Until the visitor, or patron, ascends to the second floor of this three-dimensional art installation, she or he does not realize that an ironic echo of the “I Was Just About To Do the Laundry” exhibit takes up a small corner of the Artist’s bedroom with “I Was Just About To Put Away Last Week’s Clean Laundry.” This of course illustrates the Cycle of Life, and any puns on “wash cycle” are heartily encouraged.

But before we go there, need I mention that the kitchen environment is rife with witty exhibits? “I Was Just About To Do the Dishes”? “I Was Just About To Empty the Dishwasher”? What’s slightly different about this display space is that it has the most “behind closed doors” exhibits, meant to be ferreted out and discovered anew by each visitor, or patron: Surely you can recite along with me: “I Was Just About To Clean the Refrigerator,” “…Take Out the Garbage,” “…Replace the Broken Light Bulb Over the Stove,” and so on and so forth.

There is a surprise in the small downstairs bathroom, where the visitor, or patron, is greeted by the striking juxtaposition of two rubber gloves with their “hands” in the sink, one of them gripping a heavy-duty sponge. An ambiguous shrine to indoor plumbing, it was the Artist’s intention that it subtly conjure the Ghost of Housekeeping Future. “I Was Just About To Clean the Bathroom” is as straightforward as it is witty. Again, interactive play in the form of putting on the gloves and scrubbing a bit of bathroom sink is highly encouraged.

I hesitate to catalog the contents of the downstairs “junk” room, because I haven’t got all day, but here’s a start: bags upon bags of cardboard for recycling [toilet rolls, Kleenex boxes], whole cardboard packing boxes [“I Was Just About To Cut Up the Boxes into Neat Flat Pieces”], bottles and cans, brown paper bags, junk white paper (“white trash”), shredded bills, newspapers, and the multi-sensory (sight, smell, crunch [litter bits popping under one’s feet]) installation of “I Was Just About To Clean the Cat Box.” In the corner, amid the bottles of Earthquake Disaster Water and Extra Rolls of Toilet Paper and Duct Tape is a small, poignant display, almost an afterthought, of an old red-handled hand saw (contributed by P. DuPont a là Her Ancestors on Her Mother’s Side) with two tattered gardening gloves gripping its rusty teeth in a silent indictment of my neglect of Patio Nature entitled “I Was Just About To Prune the Oleander.”

I forgot to mention that in the midst of the major installation currently being promoted are layers of previous installations, which are equally dusty though slightly less transparent in meaning: the life-size plastic skeleton wearing a University of Michigan baseball cap, seated behind a semicircular desk adorned with books, metal sculptures, D. Hullet original creations (a cloth beaded and milagro-festooned snake, a glittery star), and front display shelves with… geez, I’m getting tired of this inventory, let’s just call it: “I Was Just About To Tell You Everything I Have in the Skeleton Behind the Desk Installation and the Walls and the Bookcases and the Antique Chest and the Dining Room Table….” Let me just say that Ms. U.M. Skeleton is holding a large teddy bear with “Holiday Greetings” and “From Michigan” spelled out in glittery letters on the bottom of its feet. Can you top that, dear reader? I thought not.

The final installation, “I Was Just About To Take You on a Tour of the Upstairs But I Am Daunted by the Art-as-Function and Vice-Versa Layers of Work and Music and Play and Gifts and Criss-Crossing Strings of Paper-Lanterned Christmas Lights (a là K. Luna) and Bracelets Hanging from S Hooks (a là Ms. Luna and Sister B),” ends here, I’m afraid, where I sit amidst the rollicking decorative chaos that is my office, with the computer keyboard on my lap, ignoring Pookie’s attempts to get my attention from the shelf under my desk by sticking his head out and making his eyes big as saucers, and contemplating my next project, “I Was Just About To Get Back to Work.”

Prices are highly negotiable.

[Mary McKenney]


No, this isn’t Pookie… or is it??

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8 Responses to “#1 in a series… the best of the mary’zine that never made it to print…”

  1. Michael & Kay Says:

    very nice in a different method-


  2. Elizabeth Bullen Says:

    ahh, oleanders and Pookie take me back to Cali times. Life imitates art; very funny, my artistic friend. Makes me long for lunch at the Larkspur Inn on the patio.


  3. Peggy Says:

    This was GREAT– I laughed, I smiled, I remembered. The only thing that would move it into perfection, (and garner much higher prices) would be a cartoon depiction of each vignette a la R. Crumb!


  4. Barbie Says:

    Witty as always. Thanks for the laughs. I can relate (literally and figuratively).


  5. Terry Says:

    I’m wondering if this is a traveling exhibit, because I could swear I’ve seen it in my own house before!!

    I LOVE this, Mary!! Thanks for letting us pass through the portal of your house-kept artistic vision.


  6. Sylvia Says:

    This is an international hit – I have seen it in England, both in London and the countryside – accessible to all cultural backgrounds.


  7. Barb Kent Says:

    Having been there, I can attest to this Housecleaning Art in all of its glory. I can already picture an addendum of how your current Housecleaning Art is dutifully swept away by the persistence of Lorraine in your new house.


    • editorite Says:

      Unfortunately, the absence of Lorraine and the presence of Terry undid all of Lorraine’s great work and I am literally walking on eggshells, tissue paper, and cat toys. Remember that “literally” can also mean “figuratively” now, so I say we’re literally going to hell in a handbasket.


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