According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women still do the majority of housework. The numbers have not changed since the BLS began tracking this data in 2003. This feminized work (e.g. cleaning, managing a home and delegating household responsibilities) involves no pay and goes largely unnoticed. In Pat Mainardi’s essay from 1970 titled, “The Politics of Housework,” she outlines the ways many so-called enlightened men try to avoid doing their fair share of housework. She writes, “A great many American men are not accustomed to doing monotonous, repetitive work which never issues in any lasting, let alone important, achievement... It is a traumatizing experience for someone who has always thought of himself as being against any oppression or exploitation of one human being by another to realize that in his daily life he has been accepting and implementing (and benefiting from) this exploitation.”
These paintings deal with the many daily, tedious and nearly invisible systems that women put in place in order to maintain a clean and functioning household. These systems are thrifty, practical, and innovative such as using old pairs of underpants as dust rags, cleaning mirrors with vinegar, having separate dish towels and hand towels, storing and reusing plastic bags, making sock balls, keeping a mental list of all the groceries in the home and when they might run out, and pouring boiling water on dish sponges to kill odors.
These paintings deal with surface-- shiny polished wood, streaky wet mirrors, wrinkled plastic bags, and porous sponges. They also reflect what is just beneath that surface-- that women give their families thousands of hours of unpaid physical and emotional labor. Learning to paint is about learning to see-- to notice the hue, saturation, and value of the objects around us. But I would add that painting is also about learning to acknowledge the things that are right in front of us and to care about them.