The Labor of Art


Truth is BeautyYou could also call it the Art of Labor.

Because that’s what it is. I’m going to briefly remind you on the artistry of the everyday workers. Men, women, and their families.

I could of course definitely talk about the big artworks that we see on the streets and in parks and libraries and museums in big cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or San Francisco. I could talk about the Key West sculptures. I could talk about some of the legendary artists and painters such as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, who also worked with progressive labor movements. Or, artists like John Lennon and Yoko Ono — people who sang praises for the ordinary, working men and women. Or, Pete Seeger and Woodie Guthrie, two champions of labor rights.

Yes, of course, I could talk about them in this blog.

Instead, I’m going to talk about something simple and down to earth. I’m going to talk about the ordinary men, women and their families who are just doing their ordinary work every single day — around us — to make sure we have our lives go smoothly. And yet, doing that ordinary work, they’re doing extraordinary work of art — every single day.

Perhaps we don’t even realize how beautiful their artwork is. We don’t even notice.

Because, they are not sensational. Not pricey. Not sexy. They don’t bring billions in bushels.

Glass blowingBut, have your really ever noticed how the immigrant worker in the back of the fancy restaurant scale their fish? Have you ever took the time to find out how the overworked baker make their bagels or donuts — one at a time? I’m not talking about the mass-produced stuff; I’m talking about the little mom-n-pop stores, where they take care of you and me — as human beings. Have you ever noticed how carefully electrical workers splice their wires and optics, making sure nobody gets hurt? Have you ever followed the ceramic workers, potters or basket makers in action? Have you ever been present when the glass blowers make art out of their red hot flames and burning hot glass? One touch with a split-second of carelessness — and you can lose a few of your fingers instantly, melted away in that molten glass!

Have you ever seen workers working in sewers, or at the sewing machine? I have.

Have you ever gone into the forest to find out how farmers sap maple trees and make high-quality syrup to put on your pan cakes, early in the morning? Have you ever taken the time to see how corns and soybeans and grapes and apples and cauliflowers are planted, grown and harvested? If not, do it. I’d like to invite you to the area between Riverhead and Greenport on the north fork of Long Island, New York. You’ll see for yourself, and the farmers are willing to show you their crafts. Come out any time between June and October.

I could go on and on. 

Often, we overlook and ignore the extraordinary art our “ordinary and lay” working men and women are putting together. We take them, their labor, and their artwork for granted. Worse, the elite of us do not even consider them to be art at all. Because their art is not fancy enough to showcase at the pricey art museum. Their craft is not good enough to be framed — to sell to the affluent bidder or her agent at a Sotheby’s auction at a five-star hotel.

pottery-studio-in-fairfieldYet, not only their unglorified, non-sexy art high art, but they are actually art that is running the mighty global machine on the wheels of biology and economics.

I don’t know about you. But I salute these artists first.

Then, perhaps, if I have time, I’ll remember Picasso or Dali or Lennon or Braque or Brancusi or Beyoncé, or the other billionaires.

I love labor’s art of labor — the best.

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2 thoughts on “The Labor of Art

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