iron as memory

A Senior Thesis by Shannon McCarty

To iron one’s clothes is not an act that most Americans perform on a regular basis. Instead, we use the iron when we need to dress up for special occasions. It is an object that we use when we want to look professional or well kempt – our first day of work, weddings, funerals, parties – these are the times when we bring it out of the closet. We go to the iron when we want to present ourselves in a new way to those around us, a way that says I am successful and well maintained. The iron is the memory holder of those special occasions.

I have never been the kind of person to iron my clothes, not even for special events. Although growing up we had an iron and as an adult I have always owned one, it were not something I used more than once or twice a year. Each iron holds specific memories for people who have owned them. Since I buy used irons, each one holds important memories of a stranger. For me the ironed canvas holds memories of times when I have been creating, calm and focused. When I burn/iron I am often at my most relaxed. I sometimes burn for specific lengths of times such as the amount of time a conversation or event lasts. People are intrigued by the burns and as a result engaging conversations happen around my irons. People like to pick up and examine the resulting burns, which in turn frays their edges. In this regard the iron stacks also hold the memory of those who have considered them.

The iron is often associated with domesticity, particularly women’s work and the home. Although that was once something I too associated with it, I now understand it as a memory holder. The closer I examined, worked with and discussed the irons the less they held a domestic connotation. They have transformed into an object of dialogic and aesthetic interest. They hold the idea of a time when we were not as rushed and spent more time doing things for ourselves. Today we often pay someone else to do this service for us and that changes the nature of how we relate to others and the things we own. In the body of work iron as memory, I hope to present the viewer with a chance to look at the iron in a different way than one typically would which will hopefully lead to looking at other objects in a new way as well. A way that is not as connected to customary associations but rather a way that allows one to see the  aesthetic and social complexities of objects


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