“Women’s work” (or “woman’s work”), usually a pejorative term for women’s gender-restricted domestic roles, was redefined by feminist artists. Some, like Miriam Schapiro and Faith Ringgold, elevated traditional craft materials in their work. Mierle Laderman Uekeles coined the term “Maintenance art” for her performance events and work, whose subjects included child care and other domestic duties, and the often invisible labor of maintenance workers in projects involving New York City’s Department of Sanitation at Staten Island’s Fresh Kills landfill.
Mierle Laderman Ukeles
I am an artist. I am a woman. I am a wife. I am a mother. (Random order). I do a hell of a lot of washing, cleaning, cooking, renewing, supporting, preserving, etc. Also, (up to now separately I “do” Art. Now, I will simply do these maintenance everyday things, and flush them up to consciousness, exhibit them, as Art.” —Mierle Laderman Ukeles (Manifesto for Maintenance Art, 1969, proposal for an exhibition “CARE”)
Image credit: Mierle Laderman Ukeles. American, born 1939. Dressing to Go Out/Undressing to Go In (detail). 1973. 95 black and white photographs mounted on foamcore with chain and dust rag. Purchased with the Judith Plesser Targan, class of 1953, Fund.