In her first solo exhibition in Chicago, Maggie Crowley presents a new series of large figurative paintings in acrylic on silk in which she examines her admiration and personal connection to the service industry. Uniforms and accessories, like safety vests, helmets, and coolers, identify public workers and render them visible, while conducting labor that is considered invisible. Crowley considers this contradiction as it relates to the value placed on essential work – a discrepancy recently heightened in the US by the pandemic.
Reflecting on this shift in her work, Crowley states, “My most recent body of work focuses on the figure in motion and totems of production. Raised by a hairdresser and an ironworker, I am interested in labor and its relationship to value and visibility. The neighborhood I live in is constantly in motion with construction workers, builders and city sanitation employees. Professionals rely on hi-vis clothing to decrease the risk of injury while also having the peace of mind to perform a given task. I am interested in exploring this specific “peace of mind” that seems inextricably tied to service, ritual, agency and performance.”
The exhibition title, Playmate references the portable Igloo cooler beloved by laborers. The artist chose the object as a symbol of care, foresight, and independence of the skilled work force. Maggie Crowley is a Ground Floor 2014 alumni and co-founder of the alternative gallery, Produce Model.
Image Above: Maggie Crowley, Sidewalk Closed, 2020, acrylic on silk woven, 78 x 50 inches (approximate). Courtesy of the artist.