Pasatiempo - - Pasa Tempos - Rob DeWalt The New Mex­i­can

In 1969, Colorado-born artist, fem­i­nist, and new mother Mierle La­der­man Uke­les com­mit­ted to paper a body of text ti­tled “Main­te­nance Art: Pro­posal for an Ex­hi­bi­tion.” This artist’s man­i­festo em­bod­ied her re­ac­tion to the chores of moth­er­hood and the na­ture of work and ma­te­rial in cre­at­ing art and go­ing about daily life. “Main­te­nance is a drag,” she writes. “It takes all the [ex­ple­tive] time. The mind bog­gles and chafes at the bore­dom. The cul­ture con­fers lousy sta­tus on main­te­nance jobs = min­i­mum wages, housewives = no pay.” Four decades later, Uke­les is still ex­am­in­ing the re­la­tion­ship be­tween waste and hu­man­ity’s cu­ri­ous in­cli­na­tion to want it and its han­dlers to re­main at a com­fort­able dis­tance.

On Mon­day, May 10, Uke­les speaks at Santa Fe Art In­sti­tute’s Tip­ton Hall as part of El­e­men­tal: Earth, Air, Fire, Wa­ter, the in­sti­tute’s on­go­ing se­ries of pre­sen­ta­tions by vis­it­ing artists and schol­ars. For al­most 30 years, Uke­les has served as the of­fi­cial artist in res­i­dence — an un­paid po­si­tion — for New York City’s Depart­ment of San­i­ta­tion, where she over­sees the con­struc­tion of pub­lic projects that bring ev­ery­day cit­i­zens closer to the waste they gen­er­ate. Frus­trated and in­spired by the view of the pub­lic that san­i­ta­tion and main­te­nance work­ers are lower-class cit­i­zens, Uke­les cre­ates work in both grand and in­ti­mate scales while rep­re­sent­ing garbage and un­wanted ma­te­rial, such as snow, as things that should sit higher on the list of what de­fines us.

In I Make Main­te­nance Art One Hour Ev­ery Day (1976), Uke­les “embed­ded” her­self for two months with 300 New York san­i­ta­tion work­ers, clean­ing floors in a Lower Man­hat­tan of­fice build­ing. She pho­tographed the work­ers while toil­ing along­side them and asked them to frame their daily la­bor in terms of both work and art; she later ex­hib­ited their nar­ra­tives along­side their pic­tures at

Mierle La­der­man Uke­les: RE-SPECT, 1993, per­for­mance work on the Quai de la Nav­i­ga­tion, Givors, France; this im­age and im­age on fac­ing page cour­tesy Ron­ald Feld­man Fine Arts, New York/ www.feld­man­ Be­low, ren­der­ing of the pro­posed park at Fresh Kills Land­fill; cour­tesy Field Op­er­a­tions and the New York City Depart­ment of San­i­ta­tion

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