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Clothes lint also fit for art

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Saturday, Nov. 17, 2001

Sculptors can use myriad substances to craft their art - wood or wax, clay or concrete, stone or steel.

Cheryl Capezzuti prefers lint.

It seems entirely reasonable, then, that the local artist's latest lint sculptures are being displayed not in any ritzy gallery, but a Shadyside laundromat.

Be forewarned should you attend tonight's gala opening festivities for Capezzuti's "Lint in the Laundromat" exhibit at Duds 'N Suds on Centre Avenue: if you're not careful, you may get some Whisk in your wine or some Cheer on your cheese.

"Oh, sure, we'll have people doing their laundry during the party," said laundromat owner and arts benefactor Steven Rudick. "I think that's only fitting."

This soiree signifies society has ventured far from the days when lint was disparaged by the likes of Emily Dickinson, or perhaps it was that Heloise lady with all the household hints. I occasionally confuse the two.

Either way, you no doubt recall the celebrated though somewhat derogatory poem, "O Loathsome Lint":

"Scourge of suit, of elegant gown

Lint not trapped does make us frown

From apparel we brush away

This frightful fuzz that blights our day."

Don't let the maligned medium she favors fool you. Capezzuti, 32, of Morningside, is a committed, dedicated artist.

She took a recent sabbatical from the Winchester-Thurston School, where she teaches visual arts, to become a community artist fellow at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. "I like to laugh, but I take my work very seriously."

Capezzuti has been extending the artistic boundaries of lint since 1994, when she was a graduate student at Penn State.

"I started working with it sort of on a whim, and people seemed to find it interesting. Then they started giving me their lint, and I'd make these little lint guys out of it. They liked that, too."

Though lint is extraordinarily pliable relative to most other sculptable material, Capezzuti's work isn't as fragile as one might think. "I combine the lint with a paste and it hardens to a clay-like consistency, but it still retains its ... lintness," she said.


That recipe has enabled Capezzuti to create some sturdy statues. But "Lint in the Laundromat" is so much more than little lint guys on little lint elephants, or little lint angels gazing skyward toward little lint paradise.

Capezzuti challenges her audience - and indeed, challenges contemporary notions of lint form and function - by encouraging interactive participation in the exhibit.

Laundromat patrons are invited to leave their lint in a drop-off box for Capezzuti to sculpt and then display. Donors get to keep the work when the exhibit concludes in April. Only one sculpture per person, so make sure only your best lint is provided.

Capezzuti also is offering free classes at the laundromat on lint collage, photography, drawing and sculpture. Duds 'N Suds customers should remember to pack their pencils and sketch pads along with their detergent and fabric softener.

Can't make it to the laundromat during the exhibit• Doesn't matter. According to Capezzuti, anyone using a clothes dryer can be part of the fun.

"The truth is, you don't have to make art or even send lint. If you pause and smile the next time you clean out your lint trap, you are a participant."

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