by Megan Trimble
A Northside artist plans to bring the community together this March — with lint.
Cheryl Capezzuti of Brighton Heights is presenting The National Lint Project’s first major public installation in almost a decade at an opening party in Trey’s Laundromat and Brighton Café on March 23 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The opening party will feature a jazz band and invite the community to observe art made out of dryer lint.
The National Lint Project uses dryer lint as a medium to create sculptural works that collect memories, remind onlookers of everyday life experiences and express creativity. This installation will feature flying creatures ranging from superheroes and flying animal creatures.
Although she is now a puppet maker by trade, Capezzuti’s interests in lint originated during her time working at a tight-budgeted campus art center as graduate student at Penn State in 1994. Mixing dryer lint with paste to create an inexpensive medium, Capezzuti and her peers created simple figurines.
At the end of their graduate school careers, Capezzuti and her peers moved across the country, sharing stories of the project. When lint — and accompanying letters describing where the lint cam from — arrived in Capezzuti’s mailbox, the project was born. An official lint art installation was held in a Pittsburgh laundromat, Duds ‘N Suds, through 2004.
The project garnered media attention and was featured on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2005. Shortly thereafter, Capezzuti, who felt that it was on the brink of becoming novelty art, decided to return to the project’s origins. She has engaged in a private exchange of letters from around the country and sculptured lint works about once a month. Recently, she decided to revive the project on the Northside.
“The Laundromat is two blocks from my house and I meet to pick my daughter up from the bus stop near it. And so I would stand there and look and it and think, what a beautiful Laundromat I should do another installation there,” Capezzuti said. “I thought it would be a nice way to bring neighbors together and some special to host in my community.”
Capezzuti has lived in Brighton Heights for the past nine years and hasn’t hosted a laundromat installation since she lived in the East End prior to moving and having kids. She said that while Brighton Heights may not be typically remembered for its art scene like Friendship or Garfield, there is a “surprising number of creative folks” in the area.
“I find creative people wherever I go,” Capezzuti, who likes to think of herself as a local artist, said.
She said that she enjoys inviting people who don’t see themselves as artists or creative into her studio and watching them engage with projects.
Capezzuti said she has found that there are a surprising number of diverse attitudes about laundry and people see it as boring, beautiful and strange. She hopes that the installation will cause people to recognize the “aesthetics in our everyday lives.”
The letters that accompany the lint submissions answer several questions — Who are you? What did you wash? How do you feel about doing laundry?
“I’ve been collecting letters from people for almost 20 years, and when you read a thousand letters about that mundane daily tasks that we often take for granted it provides you with a different perspective,” Capezzuti said.
The letters often exhibit a range of emotion.
“Some say here is my plain old everyday stuff, but every now and then you get a much different letter,” she said. “I just received one from a person who had a baby this summer and she talks about how doing laundry for her baby is a treat and something really sweet when she is able to fold the tiny clothes. She didn’t necessary expect to feel that way about laundry.”
Capezzuti has also received letters saying the lint comes from having washed a dog’s blanket. Others come from those who have lost a pet and write, seeking a memento that captures the animal’s spirit.
The unusual and quirky nature of the project does not escape its creator.
“It is a little bit strange and creepy and beautiful. All of these are wrapped up in [the project], and I love that about it,” she said.
This project supported in part by the Social Innovation Exchange program –an initiative of The Pittsburgh Foundation in partnership with Pop City Media, the Luma Institute and The Sprout Fund with additional support from The Buhl Foundation — will run from March 23 through April 27. Participants can take a sculpture home for $10 on Saturday, April 27 between 10 a.m. and noon.
The installation will feature about 100 hundred pieces handmade by Capezzuti. Fifty will be made from donations from neighbors and friends around the country and 50 pieces from community lint collected at Trey’s Laundromat. Each piece takes about an hour to create.
Capezzuti envisions the opening event on March 23 hosting the “biggest range of human beings you have ever seen from little kids to people of every age, people of every background and people of every color.” All of who, she hopes, will take enjoyment in the community-focused event.
“You don’t have to send me your lint to be a participant. If you smile the next time you take the lint trap out of your dryer, then you are participant,” she said.