Overlooked Labour

“I don’t miss the job I had that much, but I miss the women I was working with.” “A lot of women leave when they get pregnant because they can’t get childcare.” “I go home at night shattered – the last thing I want to do is cook a meal or see to the house.” These quotes all comes from the women interviewed in the 1988 exhibition To Let You Understand, a collaborative project between the Edinburgh District Council’s Women’s Committee and esteemed documentary photographer Franki Raffles. Their words give us insight into women’s attitudes and experiences when it comes to work. From uncompensated work at home to paid jobs, how do women view labour today? Over 35 years later, issues related to parental leave, the gender pay gap and lack of progression and recognition continue. We’ve brought together new exhibitions and recent publications that explore this subject in detail, from artist LaToya Ruby Frazier’s “monuments to workers’ thoughts” at MoMA to critic and curator Hettie Judah’s book that explores art and motherhood.

Stories of Women, Work and Uncertain Futures | Manchester Art Gallery | Until 5 July

Stories of Women, Work and Uncertain Futures marks the final instalment in Manchester Art Gallery’s Uncertain Futures series. This powerful show focuses on paid and unpaid work by women over the age of 50. Across a wide-cross section of society, the display engages with age, class, disability, gender, migration and race. The project came about as a collaboration between US artist Suzanne Lacy and a group of women from across Manchester. Visitors will get to watch a three channel film where participants speak about the inequalities they face at work. Their words echo alongside a project manifesto demanding change.

Acts of Creation: On Art and Motherhood by Hettie Judah | Thames & Hudson

The Madonna and Child archetype has long dominated Western art. Paintings and sculptures of this subject matter also serve as some of the most recognisable depictions of motherhood. Now, renowned author and curator Hettie Judah shifts the focus by looking at the complex, raw and unfiltered reality. Acts of Creation is an insightful volume that delves into the joys, heartaches, mess, myths and mishaps of creating and caring for life through over 150 artworks, from ancient goddess artefacts to contemporary interpretations by the likes of Barbara Hepworth, Jenny Saville, Louise Bourgeois and Carrie Mae Weems.

LaToya Ruby Frazier: Monuments of Solidarity | MoMA | Until 7 September

MoMA presents the first museum survey dedicated to the artist-activist LaToya Ruby Frazier. For more than two decades, Frazier has used art to revive and preserve forgotten narratives of gender, labour and race in the postindustrial era. The multidisciplinary practitioner is known for work that traverses photography, text, moving images and performance in order to “resist historical erasure and amnesia one photograph at a time, one photo essay at a time, one book at a time, one workers’ monument at a time.” This exhibition is a sequence of powerful, original installations dedicated to “workers’ thoughts.”

Read our review of the exhibition in the June issue, learn more.

Cultivating Equality | Street Level Photoworks | Until 30 June

Who do you imagine when you think of a farmer? Many would picture a man and this is a perception that stems from a long history of overlooking women’s contributions to agriculture. Nevertheless, over half of the UK’s family farm workers are women. Commissioned by The Gaia Foundation for We Feed The UK, photographer Sophie Gerrard (b. 1978) is working to correct misconceptions when it comes to land labour by spotlighting women-led initiatives across Scotland. The exhibition Cultivating Equality is now on display at Street Level Photoworks and will be part of The World Without Us at Ffotogallery until 10 August.

Read our full interview with Sophie online here.

Hannah Perry: Manual Labour | Baltic | Until 19 January

“I came to the realisation that I had a deep-rooted, unconscious, anti-feminist view of the role of a mother that is excruciatingly patriarchal. As though the value of a mother’s labour is somehow less than that of one’s success in the professional, male-dominated world” reflects British artist Hannah Perry. Now, sh processes her own experiences and thoughts on motherhood through a large-scale, multi-disciplinary installation, which she unveils at Baltic this summer. The show examines the journey and transformation of matrescence – the process of becoming a mother – in all its creative and destructive power.

Image Credits:

  1. LaToya Ruby Frazier, Momme from The Notion of Family, 2008 © 2023 LaToya Ruby Frazier, courtesy of the artist and Gladstone gallery.
  2. Uncertain Futures grid image/ Mark Thomas, Soup Collective.
  3. LaToya Ruby Frazier, Grandma Ruby and Me from The Notion of Family, 2005 © 2024 LaToya Ruby Frazier, courtesy of the artist and Gladstone gallery.
  4. Hannah Perry Manual Labour, 2024. Film still. Photo credit: Hannah Perry © HannahPerry