The art of housework

October 16, 1991

The art of housework

Her Story: Images of Domestic Labour in Art
S.H. Ervin Gallery, Observatory Hill, Sydney, until October 21
Reviewed by Kim Spurway

"Her Story" is a unique exhibition of images of domestic labour in Australian art. It encompasses a wide range of techniques, emotions and attitudes, social classes and situations and a century of technological change in the domestic appliance.

Housework in art is usually the background against which "more important" issues are framed. Because housework is done by women and is performed in the home, is unpaid and undervalued, it is not regarded as a subject for art and culture.

This exhibition, however, shows that our private chores can provide interesting subject matter for an artist. From images of women (there is a real scarcity of men performing these tasks) scrubbing, dusting and cleaning to child-care, cooking and kitchen duties, the sense is of great humour, anger, idealism and frustration.

It is a rare treat to see the labour of women valued in a cultural sphere — whether that be the unpaid labour of the housewife or the labours of the domestic servant. I highly recommend this exhibition — it is colourful and thought-provoking.

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