Domestic Work

indigo, cotton muslin, beeswax, cotton embroidery floss

dimensions variable

2018 - ongoing

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above: still images of Domestic Work installation in artist's backyard, October 2020.

photos by the artist

below: documentation of viewer co-authoring the piece through interaction.

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This is a small excerpt of the current iteration of my ongoing fiber based piece Domestic Work. Domestic Work began as a three act performance piece that makes legible the ways that the extraction of emotional labor, caretaking and other domestic work from Black women is expected, depended upon, normalized and then erased in public and private spaces. Over the two years that Domestic Work has been in production the piece has evolved to include stories of ways that we care for ourselves and each other to build networks of interdependent relationships.

 

The body of the piece consists of 1440 squares hand embroidered with a description of an everyday act of emotional labor and then dyed to read “for you,” “for me,” or “for us” in white letters on an indigo background. From afar the reader sees only the white supertexts “for you/me/us.” As the reader approaches the piece the subtexts reveal themselves.

 

I gather the stores that are represented in the subtexts by working in public spaces. I embroider on the bus, in meeting, on planes, cars, at the grocery store, during zoom meetings etc. This act of performing handwork in public prompts people to engage me in conversation. During that conversation I introduce the piece to them. I share a personal story that relates to of the piece that I am working on in that moment. Almost every person then offers me a similar story of their own. 

After witnessing their story I invite them to contribute it to the project. We work together to distill it down to a few words. I add their story to my list and eventually it becomes a square.People who encounter the piece when it is installed are also invited to contribute. They can do so through photo testimonies or written testimonies.

 

During installation the Images of people who contributed their stories to the project are incorporated as projections. In each image the participants are portrayed holding a square (either the one that reflects their story or one that resonates with them) over their face. This provides a space for personal testimony to be linked to the actual people; the portraits are specific and universal at the same time.

 

The projections appear in different locations across the surface of the piece. This create a sense of movement in the space, which can make viewers feel as if there are other people in the space with them.

below: video documentation of the in progress work, made for residency project proposal