"First of all, ironing is drudgery, drudgery, drudgery," says artist Judy Miranda. "You always have those cliche thoughts, like, 'If this board could talk...' And second, the most popular brand, back a hundred years or so, was RIGID. They spelled it out in big letters. No kidding -- it was RIGID. Back then, when you were doing your household chores, your life was RIGID."
In the past year, Miranda has managed to get the word RIGID right where she wants it -- across the chests of the sixteen female saints she's painted onto sixteen ancient wooden ironing boards, on display in Ironing Boards and Other Memories: Icons, Traditional and Contemporary, through November 20 at the Heart Gallery. "I'm actually a photographer," she explains. (She's also a graphic arts professor at the Community College of Denver.) "This painting came about because, well, I really hate ironing."
Thus, when her original ironing board -- an unremarkable housewares-department model -- fell apart, she bought its replacement at a thrift store, secretly hoping it would be unusable. As it turned out, she ended up staring at its wooden veneer and imagining a host of noble household laborers, eventually recasting them as saints. When an antiques appraiser told her that her original old board was actually a significant domestic relic, she began collecting specimens from the 1800s and the turn of the century. After that, it was only a matter of time before she began applying paint, photographs and wood carvings to the ironing boards' surfaces and building an eccentric gallery of saints.
"I'm Catholic, but only half religious," she says. "My collection began to revolve around the twelve apostles."
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John they ain't -- Miranda's dozen include Xena, the warrior princess; St. Lucia, who gouged out one of her own eyes in order to join a cloister; Keteria, a Native American saint, and the Virgin of Guadalupe, who looks right at home with the pointy end of the ironing board making an arch over her head.
"There's some relation to the Hispanic retablos here," Miranda says. "But the best part is that I can't iron on these things anymore. What a relief!"