To profess that feminist artists explore themes of daily labor in order to challenge societal gender roles and question the female identity is predictable and tiring. The stereotypical role of the female as the cook, the housekeeper, the stay-at-home mom, or the seductress – while not an exhaustive list – are a few common tropes we too often see as representations of women across cultural platforms. Of course, these stereotypes that sound all too familiar, are by no means the definitive identity that parallels one woman’s complex individuality. Ever-changing are the viable pathways that contemporary artists take to contribute to the conversation around feminism and gender norms. And it’s a conversation that’s been prominent, pervasive, and provocative since the 1960s, and even earlier, when women’s suffrage was put into law in the 1920s.
Contemporary makers and artists across history have communicated their views on a female’s role in the world through every media and outlet possible. They, or rather, we, continue to challenge and transform the role of the woman, the role of the artist, the role of the creative. Tracey Emin displayed her bed in a gallery; Adrian Piper dressed as a man and walked through the city; Judy Chicago created a massive dinner table with place settings based on vulvar forms that honored over 1,000 women–not to mention the countless other powerful works that have deeply influenced this conversation over the decades. It’s certain, however, that this heavy and complicated discussion also exists as a microcosm within our quiet, everyday moments, during those repetitive, laborious tasks that give us space to reflect, daydream, or meditate.
In Maeve Jackson’s work, hanging laundry on a clothesline does not employ the stereotypical inference of the “woman’s job,” but rather it is the indicator of a more complex relationship between a woman, the landscape and a moment in time.