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As we all adapt to working and living under these new and unusual circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve asked curators from the Getty Museum and Getty Research Institute to share short reflections on works of art they’re thinking about right now. These brief recordings feature stories related to our daily lives—from laundry on the line to a dog at a scholar’s feet. Over the next few weeks, look for new recordings every Tuesday.

This week features photography curator Mazie Harris discussing Walker Evans’s Washington Street, New York City / Wash Day, made about 1930.

To learn more about this artwork, visit:  https://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/45404/

Black and white photograph of horizontal laundry lines with clothing hung on them.

Washington Street, New York City / Wash Day, about 1930, Walker Evans. Gelatin silver print, 10 7/8 × 8 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 84.XM.956.45

Listen to the full series of short reflections here.

Transcript

JAMES CUNO: Hi, I’m Jim Cuno, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust. As we all adapt to working and living under these new and unusual circumstances, we’ve asked curators from the Getty Museum and Getty Research Institute to share short reflections on works of art they’re thinking about right now. We’ll be releasing new recordings on Tuesdays over the next few weeks. I hope you’ll find these stories about our daily lives—from laundry on the line to a dog at a scholar’s feet—thought provoking, illuminating, and entertaining.

MAZIE HARRIS: My name is Mazie Harris. I’m one of the photography curators here at the Getty, and working at home these days I feel like all I do is laundry and dishes non-stop. So I find myself appreciating all the more this photograph by Walker Evans.

It looks like the photographer walked between two buildings and glanced up to see these crisscrossed lines of laundry hanging out to dry. There’s such delight in this sort of, it’s just like an everyday occurrence. And, I don’t know, looking at laundry dry seems like it would be just devastatingly boring and yet Evans makes it look like a lively musical score. The fabrics bellow in the wind, the sweet string of socks swaying against each other in the bottom left corner. It evokes full lives and loving labor. It’s all here illuminated and abstracted against a blank sky.

Photographers have such an incredible ability to make the mundane visually interesting. Photographs remind us to look, look, look, to look carefully. To be observant. And I’m grateful to be reminded of that as I pull yet another load of laundry from the washer or endlessly plunk dishes into the drainer by the sink. This photograph reminds me to try to find beauty in even the most banal places.

CUNO: To view this photograph by Walker Evans, titled Washington Street, New York City / Wash Day and made around 1930, click the link in this episode’s description or look for it on getty.edu/art/collection/.

JAMES CUNO: Hi, I’m Jim Cuno, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust. As we all adapt to working and living under these new and unusual circumstances, we’ve asked curators from the Getty Museum and Getty Research Institute to share short reflections on works of art they’re thinking about righ...

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This post is part of Art + Ideas, a podcast in which Getty president Jim Cuno talks with artists, writers, curators, and scholars about their work.
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