What are the different kinds of workers that are represented at the Adams Gallery?
I picked five trades to interview for the book — electricians, ironworkers, painters, plumbers, and carpenters. That's sort of the core of where the interviews come from. I feel like that gave a range of the kinds of construction work out there. They have kind of different issues. What I was trying to understand with the book and with the exhibit is that while people have very different experiences there's some whole that holds them all together. So that someone might not encounter many problems, or someone might encounter a lot of problems. But they're part of the same tapestry.
And I really love working in installation because it accommodates contradiction. I think there's something particular about the experiences women have in the trades that just can be very contradictory. People can have wonderful experiences or horrible experiences – even on the same job or at the same company. And I think installation lets you experience contradictory things at the same time. You know, you move from where you stand, and you're in a very different environment. So I felt like it resonated with that.
Your exhibit celebrates the affirmative action guidelines passed down by the federal government back in 1978. What distinguishes this moment from that of the "Rosie the Riveters" of WWII, those women who in great mass entered the industrial trades in the absence of men?
These came from executive orders from Jimmy Carter and even though some people say it was the same or that it blended into the "Rosie the Riveters" of WWII, I think there's something distinct about what affirmative action did. It really [was] built on the '65 Civil Rights act, but it said it's not just that women can do this work if nobody else is around to do it, but that women can do this work as their own job, and they're as equally entitled to it and able to do it. And I think that's really a shift in how we understand gender and work. And we're not totally up to that.
We kind of have these legal changes and our culture and our reality doesn't suddenly shift to meet that. But there's something different to rest on. So I think that's worth celebrating.
Tell me an early experience you had on the job that shaped you.
I was in a class where there were five of us who graduated together in the first group of women from the electricians union here. I think four of us lived in Jamaica Plain or JP/Dorchester and we'd carpool to school two nights a week for four years. You worked 40 hours-a-week, and then you had classes two nights a week. So that was really helpful in terms of having a support group so that even if you had a horrible time or partner or boss or job, you know, there was somebody. We really pulled each other through. So that was a significant thing for me.
: Museum And Gallery
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