Force of Nature

BETY

Bety, Archival pigment print, Edition of 3, 36 x 24 in

Bety, Archival pigment print, Edition of 3, 36 x 24 in

ABOUT BETY

Bety works cleaning homes, and she also gets up early every weekday to volunteer at morning mass at her church. She does most of the domestic labor in her own home, though she says doesn’t consider it a burden, and in fact, she’ll usually leave off working on her own tasks if someone needs something from her. “If there’s something else that needs to be done other than my thing, I’m going to do the other thing first, even though I know I need the time for myself." So, she carries a large share of emotional labor, too.

Bety has not had an easy life. Working cleaning houses since she was 11 years old, she was a single mother at age 17. At 22, she had to leave her first son behind in Mexico with her mother while she came to the US to look for work to support her family. She endured decades of mental and emotional abuse living with her alcoholic partner, and she and her second son experienced homelessness as a result of the partner’s inability to work. Living in the Salvation Army shelter, Bety volunteered in the kitchens so she could keep her son from having to leave every morning (as is the typical arrangement). Even as her own life was on the mend, she sat with her then ex-partner as he died from the effects of his alcoholism. She says she didn’t feel it would be right to leave him by himself like that. Bety’s dogged determination to do right by people—even at great cost to herself—is humbling to even the most generous souls among us.

Bety’s paid labor hours, spent cleaning houses, are represented by heavy, earth-colored forms cast from various types of potscrubbers. Her unpaid work hours, many of which are spent volunteering within her church community, are represented by lighter disks with holes reminiscent of tracery. Hours not spent working are spaces on the chain.

Bety, Plaster casts of kitchen scrubbers, sheet metal, chain, 132 x 132 x 12 in

Bety, Plaster casts of kitchen scrubbers, sheet metal, chain, 132 x 132 x 12 in

Bety, detail of cast potscrubber

Bety, detail of cast potscrubber