Textile manipulation, embroidery, and ornamental decoration have long been seen as residing within the realm of the private feminine. Backbreaking and dirty manual labor is traditionally within the very public and often better compensated masculine arena. Artist Eliza Bennett brings mixes the delicate with the visceral in her piece, A Woman’s Work is Never Done. Using her own hand as a base, she stitches pastel colors into her flesh, accentuating the lines and callouses. Each painful line disavows the notion that a woman’s work is always easy, carefree, and frivolous.
In A Woman’s Work is Never Done, Bennett seeks to represent the hidden effects of domestic jobs such as care-taking, child-rearing, cleaning, and cooking. Often underpaid and overlooked, her piece makes visible the scars and discomfort that women endure in silence. The thick threads piercing her skin are worn like proud badges, forcing the viewer to recognize the effort that is often overlooked and poorly compensated.
Acting as a combination canvas and garment, her hand acts as an intermediary between inner emotion and public expression. Within the context of the fashion industry, her composition highlights the suffering of the thousands of low-wage workers forced to earn a living and support their families by sacrificing their health. Women are particularly vulnerable to abuse, sexual harassment, and exploitation throughout the production of clothing. Bennett’s work is an emotionally-charged reminder of the very real physical and psychological consequences of occupations that are commonly marginalized and trivialized.