Currently on view through January 5, 2018.
The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) presents El Tendedero/The Clothesline Project, DC, an exhibition by Mexico City-based artist Mónica Mayer, on view through January 5, 2018. The exhibition invites visitors to leave comments about violence against women by asking questions including, “As a woman, where do you feel safe? Why?” and “Have you ever experienced violence or harassment? What happened?” Participants write their responses on small pink cards, which are then hung on a clothesline.
As a result, Mayer transforms the clothesline, a traditionally feminine object, into a tool designed to engage the community and facilitate a dialogue around women’s experiences—including topics such as sexual harassment and domestic violence.
“With sexual exploitation dominating the current news and the now viral #MeToo social media campaign, newly empowered women are talking publicly about being mistreated by men, a topic that was once left in the shadows,” said Director of Public Programs Melani N. Douglass. “Activism via art projects, social media and blog posts can create more awareness and inspire more women to speak out. We are grateful to Mónica Mayer for using her Clothesline Project to address these issues, particularly now when they are so timely.”
Among the comments left on the clothesline so far, one woman noted, “I called the police once on a man beating a woman on the street. I’ve taken friends to the shelter. I raise my son without violence and talk about this often.” Another participant responded that she has often been a victim of sexual harassment: “Guys grabbing my breasts on the street. Getting cornered and forced into small spaces where I had to fight my way out.” And another women noted that, “No place is safe. I wasn’t safe at work or home as cyber tactics and other tools were used (against me).” And finally a woman said she had to “quit her job and leave town.”
Since 1978, Mayer has been implementing El Tendedero/The Clothesline Project in various museums and communities throughout the United States, Mexico and South America, asking women from different economic classes, ages and professions to respond to the statements related to where they live. The site-specific installation documents the project’s results by using content created through community outreach, inviting visitors to add their voices and experiences to the clothesline.
Mayer offered workshops to DC-area artists, activists and advocates working on issues of violence against women in September. NMWA sponsored a workshop with more than 20 participants at the House of Ruth, which is an organization that helps women, children and families in greatest need and with very limited resources build safe, stable lives and achieve their highest potential. NMWA also hosted La Clinica del Pueblo—an organization which seeks to build a healthy Latino community through culturally appropriate health services—for a bilingual workshop with Mayer. Both groups helped to create the framing questions for the exhibition and other materials which are included in the presentation of El Tendedero at NMWA. The exhibition is bilingual, offering all text in both Spanish and English.
In addition, artists and activists from DC and Baltimore participated in a working session with Mayer to discuss the project and the parallels to their own work. They also explored ho they could implement the Clothesline model in their respective communities.
El Tendedero/The Clothesline Project is presented as part of the 2017–18 Women, Arts and Social Change season. The Women, Arts and Social Change public programs initiative is made possible through leadership gifts from Denise Littlefield Sobel, the MLDauray Arts Initiative, The Reva and David Logan Foundation, and the Swartz Foundation. Additional support is provided by Deborah G. Carstens, the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Family Fund, and the Bernstein Family Foundation.
Women, Arts and Social Change
Women, Arts, and Social Change (WASC) is an acclaimed public programs initiative highlighting the power of women and the arts as catalysts for change. These programs convene women from a range of disciplines whose socially conscious ideas are reshaping lives and economies, engaging communities, and empowering women. Fresh Talk, the initiative’s signature program series, assembles prominent women in the arts for creative conversations. Fresh Talk champions women through the arts and advocates for social change. WASC also features Cultural Capital program partnerships, which build community connections with area organizations to increase the museum’s visibility and reach new audiences. #FreshTalk4Change
National Museum of Women in the Arts
The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) is the only major museum in the world solely dedicated to championing women through the arts. With its collections, exhibitions, programs and online content, the museum seeks to inspire dynamic exchanges about art and ideas. NMWA advocates for better representation of women artists and serves as a vital center for thought leadership, community engagement and social change. NMWA addresses the gender imbalance in the presentation of art by bringing to light important women artists of the past while promoting great women artists working today. The collections highlight painting, sculpture, photography and video by artists including Louise Bourgeois, Mary Cassatt, Frida Kahlo, Shirin Neshat, Faith Ringgold, Pipilotti Rist and Élisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun.
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Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for visitors 65 and over and students, and free for NMWA members and youth 18 and under. Admission is free the first Sunday of each month.
The National Museum of Women in the Arts is located at 1250 New York Avenue NW. For information, call 202-783-5000 or visit nmwa.org.