Invisible Labors began as a project for the 2021 Terrain Biennial at boundary. I love working with artists who envision different uses for this space, both outdoors and indoors. For the Biennial, I invited Melissa Potter to propose an idea for a garden project as she has done in other green-spaces in Chicago. She and I planted a garden that includes natural carbon remediators and pollinators such as milkweed, native seedlings, and rare native seeds, as well as plants whose fibers are suitable for use in hand-made, plant-based paper-making.
After conversations with Potter and others involved with the history of The Ridge, the area now comprised of Beverly and Morgan Park neighborhoods in Chicago and Blue Island, just to the south, I became interested in how land in the south Chicago-land area had been used prior to industrialization. Through this dialogue I discovered the rich, intermingled history of female land-keepers and stewards including Potawatomi women, gardeners and farmers, artists, and progressive educators who lived in the Ridge area. The more we talked, the more we became inspired to develop an artist publication devoted to this subject.
The fascinating and mostly under-discovered histories of these women and the manner in which land-keeping influenced their work are essential to the narrative of this publication; from the Potawatomi basket weavers who harvested the bark from Black Ash trees to create unique and soulful baskets, to the work of Louise Barwick, Kate Starr Kellogg, and Alice D. Kellogg, who were artists, farmers, and progressive educators in The Ridge area. For our collaboration, the title Invisible Labors has also come to signify the actual invisible labor and contributions that these women, along with many others, made to The Ridge area in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
We are working with designer and artist Tamara Becerra Valdez, printer Jacob Lindgren to create a limited edition artist book. This publication will include essays by myself and Potter, archival photos, original artwork and Potter’s handmade burdock paper. We are working with care and attention paid to creating a unique visual experience that mirrors the Invisible Labors garden design.