Mierle Laderman Ukeles

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Mierle Laderman Ukeles
Born 1939
Denver, Colorado
Nationality American
Alma mater Barnard College, Pratt Institute
Movement Feminist art movement
  • Maintenance Art Manifesto 1969! Proposal for an Exhibition "CARE" (1969)
  • Maintenance Art Tasks (1973)
  • Hartford Wash: Washing/Tracks/Maintenance: Outside (1973)
  • Hartford Wash: Washing/Tracks/Maintenance: Inside (1973)
  • Touch Sanitation (1978-80)

Mierle Laderman Ukeles (born 1939, Denver, Colorado) is a New York City-based artist known for her feminist and service oriented artwork.[1]


As an undergraduate, Ukeles studied history and international studies at Barnard College and later began her artistic training at the Pratt Institute in New York.[1]

In 1969 she wrote a manifesto entitled Maintenance Art Manifesto 1969! Proposal for an exhibition "CARE", challenging the domestic role of women and proclaiming herself a "maintenance artist". Aside from "personal" or household maintenance, the manifesto also addressed "general" or public maintenance and earth maintenance, such as addressing polluted waters. Her exhibitions were intended to bring awareness to the low cultural status of maintenance work, generally paying either minimum wage or no payments for housewives.[2] Maintenance, for Ukeles, includes the household activities that keep things going, such as cooking, cleaning and child-rearing -[3] and during her exhibitions, she performed the same tasks that she would perform in her daily life, including entertaining guests.[2]

Several of her performances in the 1970s involved the maintenance of art spaces, including the Wadsworth Atheneum. Since 1977 she has been the Artist in Residence (unsalaried) of the New York City Department of Sanitation.[4]


  • Maintenance Art Manifesto 1969! Proposal for an Exhibition "CARE" (1969) - a proposal for an exhibition to display maintenance work as contemporary art,[2] which was published in Artforum in 1971. Ukeles then participated in Lucy Lippard's traveling exhibition of conceptual female artists c. 7,500 (1973–74) and fourteen other exhibitions and interventions in museums followed, including in the Wadsworth Atheneum.[5]
  • Maintenance Art Tasks (1973) - a photograph collection of household activities performed by Laderman Ukeles and her husband, with 12 to 90 images per activity.[6]
  • Maintenance Art Tasks performances at the Wadsworth Atheneum, 1973 - During the course of 1973, Laderman performed The Keeping of the Keys (July 20, 1973), Transfer: The Maintenance of the Art Object: Mummy Maintenance: With the Maintenance Man, The Maintenance Artist, and the Museum Conservator (July 20, 1973), Washing/Tracks/Maintenance: Inside and Washing/Tracks/Maintenance: Outside (July 23, 1973) at the Wadsworth Atheneum[7]
  • Hartford Wash: Washing/Tracks/Maintenance: Outside (1973)
  • Hartford Wash: Washing/Tracks/Maintenance: Inside (1973)
  • Touch Sanitation (1978-80) - involved thanking and shaking hands with more than 8,500 workers.[8]


  • "A Journey: Earth/City/Flow." Art Journal (Summer 1992): 12-14.
  • "Maintenance Art Activity (1973)." Documents 10 (Fall 1977):8.
  • "Manifesto For Maintenace Art 1969! Proposal for an exhibition 'Care'."; Originally published in Jack Burnham. "Problems of Criticism." Artforum (January 1971) 41; reprinted in Lucy Lippard. Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object. New York:New York University Press, 1979: 220-221.
  • "Sanitation Manifesto! (1984)." The Act 2, no.1, (1990): 84-85.
  • Ukeles, Mierle Laderman and Alexandra Schwartz. "Mierle Laderman Ukeles in conversation with Alexandra Schwartz." in Butler, Cornelia et al.From Conceptualism to Feminism: Lucy Lippard's Numbers Shows 1969-1974 London: Afterall, 2012.


  1. ^ a b Krug, Don. "Ecological Restoration: Mierle Ukeles, Flow City". Art & Ecology: Perspectives and Issues. greenmuseum.org. Retrieved October 16, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c "Maintenance Art Manifesto 1969." Feldman Gallery. Retrieved on 2014-02-02.[better source needed]
  3. ^ Jon Bird, Michael Newman, Rewriting Conceptual Art, Reaktion Books, 1999, p114-5. ISBN 1-86189-052-4
  4. ^ Trash Talk: The Department of Sanitation’s Artist in Residence Is a Real Survivor | Gallerist. Galleristny.com. Retrieved on 2014-02-02.
  5. ^ Western, Mirjam (2010). Rebelle. De Rijn, Arnhem: Museum voor Modern Kunst Arnhem. p. 254. ISBN 978-90-72861-45-0. 
  6. ^ Jason Waite, "House of Invisible Cards" in Maintenance Required exhibition catalog for exhibition "Maintenance Required" at The Kitchen, 512 W 19th St, New York, NY, May 30-June 22, 2013. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 2013: 56.
  7. ^ Copy of Mierle Laderman Ukeles resume by Ronald Feldman Fine Arts Gallery. Brooklyn Museum.[better source needed]
  8. ^ Ukeles, Mierle Laderman. "Interview." Coordinated by Erin Salazer, Bronx Museum TCG (Spring/Summer 2006).

Further reading[edit]

  • Buckberrough, Sherry, and Andrea Miller-Keller. Mierle Laderman Ukeles: Matrix 137. (exhibition catalogue) Hartford, CT: Wadsworth Atheneum, 1998.
  • Jackson, Shannon. "High Maintenance: The Sanitation Aesthetics of Mierle Laderman Ukeles." In Social Works: performing art, supporting publics, 75-103. New York: Routledge, 2011.
  • Kwon, Miwon. "In Appreciation of Invisible Work: Mierle Laderman Ukeles and the Maintenance of the 'White Cube'." Documents 10, (Fall 1997):15-18.
  • Molesworth, Helen. “Cleaning Up in the 1970s: The Work of Judy Chicago, May Kelly and Mierle Laderman Ukeles,” in Rewriting Conceptual Art. Ed. Michael Newman and Jon Bird. London: Reaktion, 1999. 107-122.
  • Molesworth, Helen. "House Work and Art Work." October 92, (Spring 2000):71-97.
  • Molesworth, Helen. "Work Stoppages: Mierle Laderman Ukeles' Theory of Labor Value." Documents 10 (Fall 1997): 19-22.
  • Erin Salazer. "Mierle Laderman Ukeles Interview." Coordinated by Erin Salazer, Bronx Museum TCG (Spring/Summer 2006):14-21.

External links[edit]