Mierle Laderman Ukeles, who lives and works in New York City where she is the Artist In Residence at the Department of Sanitation, is an artist whose work I connect with deeply. Ukeles has termed her work Maintenance Art and is probably best known for her performance pieces, which explore the systems and people who keep institutions clean and sanitized.
In her performance Cleaning The Museum, artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles uses the work of cleaning as a generative act. My current body of work, Keeping House, explores my experience working as a professional maid and the ways in which it relates to artmaking and movements for social change.
Ukeles arrived at her inspiration upon having children and feeling relegated to the gendered role of homemaker. Mine appeared while working as a commercial housekeeper to supplement the income from my more prestigious, but much less reliable, work as a Master Printer. In both jobs I was vital but invisible. The physical aspects of the execution of the work felt very similar to me, the precise and repetitive act of folding towels being akin to tearing a stack of paper to size for an edition.
Like Ukeles, I reconfigure the act of cleaning as a performance. Taking her ideas further I also transform the tools of cleaning into sacred art objects and critique the association between the work of cleaning and feminine bodies.
Ukeles has taken on a permanent role within the Department of Sanitation to bring honor and beauty to those who work there. Where she works directly with people laboring in the cleaning industry, in performance and narrative visual artworks I assume the persona of Mad Maid to act as a representative of their collective struggle.
Although coming to our topic from different life experiences and approaching it in distinct methods, the work of Mierle Laderman Ukeles inspires me greatly.
Veronica Ceci is a Queer intermedia artist based in Austin, TX, where she has been working as a Master Printer since 2004. Ceci's current body of work, Keeping House reconfigures the viewers' relationship to the human element of institutional cleanliness by making undervalued labor conspicuous through intense materiality, repetition, iconography and lived performance.
Ceci's pieces have been included in exhibitions at the Cleveland Museum of Art, The Art Museum of Southeast Texas, and the International Print Center New York. Her work is held in many collections including the Library of Congress, Zuckerman Museum of Art, The Experimental Printmaking Institute, Manhattan Graphics Center and The Austin History Center. The artist received her BFA from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, was certified at the Tamarind Institute of Lithography and completed her MFA at Kent State University. Ceci is the founder of the nonprofit organization, Flash Collective, which pays artists for their participation in community art making events and exhibitions.