The work of Mierle Laderman Ukeles (born 1939 in Denver, USA) concerns the everyday routines of life. In 1969, following the birth of her first child, Ukeles wrote her "Manifesto for Maintenance Art" as a challenge to the oppositions between art and life, nature and culture, and public and private.
Mierle Laderman Ukeles took a seminal position in early conceptual and feminist art, her work looked to highlight otherwise overlooked aspects of social production and questions, still very relevant today, the hierarchies of different forms of work, especially of housework and low-wage labour. Her early work was experimental, and visually and symbolically conveyed her own personal expression and turmoil as well as the social unrest surrounding events, such as the women’s movement and the Vietnam War.
Ukeles completed an undergraduate degree in history and international relations at Barnard and studied visual arts at Pratt Institute in New Yorkin the 1960s. Since the 1970s, she exhibited and performed widely, among others in C7500, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford / CT (1973), Issue: Social Strategies by Women Artists, Institute of Contemporary Art, London (1980, both curated by Lucy Lippard), Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York (1998), WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, P.S. 1, New York (2007-2008) and the International Armory Art Fair, New York, 2007, Maintenance Art Works 1969–1980, Grazer Kunstverein (2013), Maintenance Required, The Kitchen, New York (2013, organized by the Whitney Independent Study Program), and the forthcoming 13th Istanbul Biennial. For many years, she has been realising landfill transformation commissions, among others the Freshkills Park in New York City and Danehy Park in Cambridge. Unburning Freedom Hall, a major installation, was exhibited at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art in 1997.