Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2015

Author's School

Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts

Author Department/Program

Graduate School of Art

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Visual Art

Degree Type



This thesis considers the relationship between art and labor in twentieth century America while examining how this informs my art practice. The document aims to briefly examine Karl Marx theory of estranged labor, Hannah Arendt’s essay on the human condition of work, and philosophers such as John Ruskin and Jacque Ranciere, while discussing the relationship between art and labor. By giving a brief history of twentieth century art in reference to work and labor, I plan to excavate a deeper understanding of the relationship between Art, Labor, and work. The example artworks both historical and contemporary will support the accompanying sculptural pieces and provide a framework to buttress my artwork. In conclusion, this document will lay the foundation for comprehending the complex association between Art Work and Labor while providing a context for a contemporary appreciation of the absent worker through Art.


English (en)

Program Director

Patricia Olynyk

Program Director's Department

Graduate School of Art

Committee Member

Michael Byron

Committee Member

Michael Byron

Committee Member

Noah Kirby

Committee Member

Jessica Baran

Artist's Statement

The term Artwork contains two words, which are closely related yet very different. Art and Work have been joined together but not without controversial history. From massive public monuments to the Art Worker’s Coalition, Art and Work contain common ground that is centuries old. These two words also lay the foundation for the dual identities I have assumed while navigating down this path as an artist. On one hand, I am a fabricator, designing and building any project that is presented to me. On the other, an artist, using common materials and tools to create contemporary memorials to the absent worker.

The balancing act of worker and artist has developed into the basis of my sculptural projects. By representing the working class through identity markers such as actual workers hard hats or used hand tools, the sculptures are icons of labor. Each tool is personified by the life it has lived and will continue to live. The tool as an extension of the body becomes an aesthetic object whose patination presents insight into the strenuous life of the American laborer.

These sculptures are temporary. The goal is not simply to gather tools and manipulate them into something that can no longer continue its life of work but rather to excavate the tools from the worksite for a momentary change of occupation as artwork. The elements within my sculpture are held together and supported with provisional methods allowing each object to retain its functionality. Practicality and functionality are essential to the worker and manipulation of these objects would be disrespectful. At the end of this sculptural hiatus, each piece will return to the hand of the worker and continue its journey of labor.

This method of creation parallels the dual identities I have previously described. I believe that I am another tool in the equation that migrates between worker and artist, sculptor and fabricator. Much like the objects appropriated within these assemblages, I find myself on a temporary hiatus from my day job, in order to create memorials to the men and women who comprise the working class.

From the excavation, foundation setting, electrical, and plumbing, the space of the museum was once alive with work. Placing these sculptures in the gallery allows the working class to once again inhabit the space. The goal of my sculptures is to employ working class values of practicality and functionality in order to create memorials to the unseen worker and celebrate the human condition of work while using Art to demonstrate the complicated relationship between Art and Labor.

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