As the New York City Department of Sanitation’s official artist-in-residence, Mierle Laderman Ukeles has challenged perceptions of labor and the city’s workers for over 30 years. She began her work long before designer Heron Preston’s sanitation-uniform show this Fashion Week, documenting a range of labor practices from everyday domestic chores to blue-collar public-service jobs.
In subversive performances, unusual installations, and mixed-media works (like trash-dump sculptures), Ukeles often explores cultural status and female identity. A new exhibit opening this Sunday at the Queens Museum showcases her oeuvre, which spans over 50 years. It accompanies the book Mierle Laderman Ukeles: Maintenance Art, published by Prestel earlier this month.
Click ahead to see photographs from the book and Ukeles’s various works, including street sweepers as performance art.