Lisa Alvarado
Visual Arts/Installation

Mexican Maid's Toolkit


Mexican Maid's Toolkit: Sin Fronteras, Reimagining The Distaff Toolkit

Lisa Alvarado's Mexican Woman's Toolkit, Sin Fronteras is a large floral tote bag hanging on wooden pegs, which visitors are invited to rummage through. The bag belongs to a Mexican domestic in WWII-era Chicago: her life is service to others, she has no privacy.

Reimagining The Distaff Toolkit Overview --- from Rickie Solinger, Curator/Historian

"Reimagining the Distaff Toolkit" is an exhibition of contemporary art, each of which has, at its visible core, a tool that was important for women's domestic labor in the past (the 18th century through World War II). The old tool becomes the fulcrum for a work of art. Each work and the exhibit as a whole have the power to speak to viewers independently, Artists are placing objects such as a dressmaker's figure, diapers, graters, grinders, needles, pins, pots, pans, baskets, garden-seed-packets, rakes, hoes, dress patterns, dish-rags, rolling pins, brooms, buckets, darning eggs, knives, rug-beaters, and other tools at the center of their work. One piece will have an early 19th century distaff at its visible core. Part of the point of this exhibition project is to explore the idea of "seeing as context." As I imagine the process here, I look at a tool that facilitated very hard and repetitive labor and that evokes women's degradation as domestic drudges. I look again, through my early 21st century eyes, at a moment when "old tools" have become commodified and expensive, and I see costly beauty. Reimagining the distaff toolkit for the purposes of this exhibition might include (overlapping) gestures in any of the following directions - or other directions - history / memory /gender / labor / material culture /household objects / family relations / power and powerlessness / drudgery/ craft and beauty. Reimagining the Distaff Toolkit puts utility in conversation with art, the past in conversation with the present.

Exhibition Tour Schedule
Feb-April 2010, Dennison Museum, Newark, NJ
Jan-Feb 2009 Morris Museum, Morristown, NJ
March 2009 Oklahoma State University
Sept-Dec 2009 Union College, Schnectady, NY

Previous Exhibition
March-May 2008 Bennington (VT) Museum
Oct-Dec 2008 The Mead Museum, Amherst College