“…Capezzuti continues to be one of the most visible figures in the Pittsburgh art scene.”
–Amanda Waltz, Pittsburgh Citypaper
Cheryl Capezzuti has been using the discards of American life as sculptural media to explore who we are for almost thirty years. Her sculpture is embedded in our times and has evolved from an engagement with ordinary, everyday experiences to a wider, universal context in an increasingly challenging world, all while continually exploring the possibilities of her chosen materials.
Her first tiny work with dryer lint appeared as a figurative sculpture made from a single load of lint when she was a graduate student in 1994. For the second half of the 1990s her interactive sculptural experiment, The National Lint Project, invited people from all over the country to share a single load of lint along with a note about their laundry experiences. As a result of this project, over 1,000 lint donors received a hand-held sculpture made from their own lint and Capezzuti amassed a collection of notes from everyday people about the act of doing laundry.
A transformative moment for the project happened in 1999 when Capezzuti cleaned the lint trap in the dryer in her grandma’s kitchen, shortly after she passed away. The powerful feeling of holding the last fibers shed from the life of someone she loved transformed the project from a humorous experiment related to the banality of everyday life into a reflection on the meaning of love and loss and the role art can play in the possibilities of memory. This exploration continues today as a thread in Capezzuti’s studio practice.
Capezzuti spent four years from 2000-2004 as the Artist-in-Residence at Duds-N-Suds Laundromat in Pittsburgh, supported by the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, The Heinz Endowments and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. There she collected stories and dryer lint from launderers during weekly art happenings in the space. The results of this community-interactive public artwork were showcased twice a year at the Party in the Laundromat which included live music, theatrical performances, puppetry and other experimental works, attended by launderers and art-lovers alike. Many collaborative projects grew out of this wildly creative experience over the next decade including a full-length, original musical that premiered at the Byham Theater in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District, a solo installation at Gallery 808 in downtown Pittsburgh and a series of giant puppets made out of dryer lint that performed around Pittsburgh for years. During this time Capezzuti also pursued other artistic projects and became well-known for her community-interactive public art works in media other than dryer lint. Most notably, she became a nationally-recognized maker of giant puppets used for community-connected celebrations.
In March 2020, prompted by the global pandemic and the abrupt stop to all community-interactive activities, Capezzuti refocused her studio practice on dryer lint and its ability as a medium to speak to the American state of mind in the moment. This new work explores domesticity, the environment, memory and loss. Armed with decades of experience working with unusual detritus, Capezzuti has created more than 100 new works in the last three years. Research and experimentation has allowed her to create large-scale works from an ephemeral material. They appear soft but they are sturdy, archival and made with an environmentally friendly process. Each sculpture is created from a collection of a single household, a neighborhood or a self-defined community. Somewhere within the debris of each sculpture there is a tiny code to scan that links to information about the sculptures and letters written by the everyday people who donated this little bit of themselves. Whether seen singly or in a group, her tiny people and overscale, looming figures, speak of the human condition.
Looking for puppets? Visit www.puppetsforpittsburgh.com
Copyright: Cheryl Capezzuti 2023