Susan C. Dessel

Untitled (Honor)
wood, glass, cement, cheesecloth, paper
48 x 27 x 22 in.

Untitled (Honor) speaks of the value and dignity of manual labor: seemingly invisible work of immigrants, house-based work of women, backbreaking labor of the uneducated, and women’s handwork disdained as craft. The piece housed in a case reminiscent of valuable museum exhibits or displays of priceless jewels combines ruggedness of cement with gauzy femininity of cheesecloth. Working with one’s hands often provides access to the American way of life, enabling subsequent generations to pursue education and achieve dreams, and provides the infrastructure of supports upon which our society is built.

Physical labor silently embodies thorny issues of class, race, and immigration. And while not exclusively a feminist issue, it informs many gender-based issues. As an older emerging artist, my own “institutional memory” and personal experiences enable me to reflect on the roots of my story in others’ physical labor and the role of physical labor in our country’s his/herstory, and appreciate and understand the conditions of those around the globe who endure the burden and risks of manual labor.


© Susan C. Dessel