"Total" Medal by Elaine Luther

“Total (the All Sacrificing Mother)” Medal by Elaine Luther, Copyright Elaine Luther 2021. Photo by Dulce M. Rodriguez.

That’s what this series is about. Invisible, unpaid, often unnoticed labor, which is usually done by women.

I’m telling this story in a few different ways, as collages on time cards, as assemblages in matchboxes and as a Medal that You Wouldn’t Want to Earn.. Above, is “Total (the All Sacrificing Mother).”

Below, a related series of matchboxes I made back in July.

Six white matchboxes have been collaged by Elaine Luther. Each one is partially opened to reveal the collage inside. Some boxes have a tiny model railroad person inside. Many of the boxes are collaged with old time cards, showing the days of the week.

Six days of the week timecard-matchbox works by Elaine Luther. Copyright Elaine Luther 2021.

And in October, while at the residency at Grand Marais Art Colony in Minnesota, I made full size time cards.

Time cards collaged by Elaine Luther.

“Cooking,” “Entertaining” and “Sewing/Lessons” timecards for mothers, by Elaine Luther, 2021.

Photo collage of three time cards, collaged by Elaine Luther.

“Childrcare,” “Mending” and “Escape,” three collages on time cards for mothers, by Elaine Luther, 2021.

Here’s what I wrote about the timecards in a recent blog post:

I heard on a podcast (Stuff You Missed in History Class) about a study done by the Department of Home Economics on housework. Yes, the U.S. government used to have a Department of Home Economics!

The study report was called, “Is the Modern Housewife a Lady of Leasure?” (That’s how it’s spelled in the report.)

The whole report is online, you can read it! Page one of the report is in the “title page” collage for this series, which is a 12” x 12” wood panel, it also has “1929” – the year of the report, in tiny numbers, and large, vintage style house number letters for “51.”

I’ve been using the timecards back in my home studio for a while now. I’ve used them in tiny matchbox art, with a tiny working man, and then a mother, holding a baby. And I used a time card in a new work in my series, “Medals that You Wouldn’t Want to Earn.”

So naturally I packed my timecards, just in case, when I went to the Grand Marais Art Colony in northern Minnesota, for my recent residency.

I’d been thinking a lot about labor, domestic labor, unpaid caring work. It made sense to collage right on top of these timecards, as a statement about all of the unpaid work, usually done by women, mothers and others, and often unpaid or underpaid and usually under-appreciated, by society, if not by the children involved.

There are 7 time cards, one for each day of the week, naturally.

Here’s that collage work with the 51 on it:

"51 Hours" collage by Elaine Luther

“51 Hours” collage by Elaine Luther, 2021.

The whole 51 hours thing is pretty obscure, so the new name of all these works that involve time cards and are on this topic is, “Clocking in for Unpaid Labor.”

Sign up!

Join my newsletter list here.