An art exhibition exploring forms of caretaking that often go unseen in contemporary society is up through November 5 at Firefolk Arts in Waitsfield. “Invisible Labor” showcases work by 19 artists from Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Maine, Rhode Island, Florida and Canada.



Tina Picz, who launched Firefolk Arts on Main Street this summer, curated the show alongside Shelburne artist Christine Mitchell Adams. The show has themes of caretaking, labor, identity, sense of self, aging, the body and motherhood.

The works examine some of the tensions that emerge in caretaking work. In their exhibition statement, Picz and Mitchell Adams point to “the joy of nurturing, juxtaposed with a deep sense of grief for where we ‘lack,’ or fall short of our own expectations, of those of society.”

Picz lost her father one year prior to having her daughter, who is now 14. He had ALS – a neurodegenerative disease – and her mother was his primary caretaker. The show comes from a personal space for her, she said.

The term “invisible work” was coined in 1987 by sociologist Arlene Kaplan Daniels, who used it to describe unpaid labor undertaken by women in private realms, outside of the market economy – particularly in caring for children and men. She argued that capitalist, patriarchal societies depend on such work staying undervalued.

Somerville, Massachusett-based Joetta Maue’s “28 sinks” is an example of such unpaid work. As a series of photographs, her large-format print shows repeated shots of her kitchen sink from a bird’s eye view – an unending stream of dirty dishes, silverware, discarded flowers, house plants to be watered, and other items.


Heather Gallagher, Winooski, works as a photographer as well as a birth and death doula. She showed two photographs shedding light on the multifaceted reality of providing physical and emotional support. One is a portrait of her father, diagnosed with terminal cancer last year, holding her 10-month-old son. The other depicts her mother and brother embracing beside an open-face box that holds her deceased father, shortly before he was cremated. Her son crawls on the carpeted funeral home floor in the foreground.

In addition to Picz, two other artists in the show are Pamela Day and Ellen Kucera, both from Warren.

Day, a ceramic artist, showed three bowls filled with hair – that of her two sons and her own. She experienced hair loss in the past few years, with the stress of parenting and running her business, Blockhouse Studio, Waitsfield, during COVID-19. She reflected on her sons’ first times getting their hair cut short. For one, “the hair cut came with a new attitude,” but for the other, the experience came with insecurity and a vow to grow his hair out again.

“I became aware of how much our identity is connected to hair,” Day said. “As a woman, losing hair is scary, even if it seems kind of vain.” The bowls represent the act of feeding people physically and emotionally, she said. But because the interiors are unglazed, they are not actually intended to hold or offer food. “Caretaking brings joy, but it also brings sacrifices,” she added.

Kucera made her two sculptures – wire armatures dipped into high-shrinkage paper pulp – 15 years ago at an artist residency in New York. She saw these as fitting for the show because “at that time I was making a lot of vessels, and I was literally a vessel, growing my first child, thinking about what parenthood would be like.”

Kucera said that since having children, now 12 and 14, her art practice has shifted. “I don’t make as much. Honestly, when my kids were little I had a harder time getting into the studio to make work – especially because my work needed time and depth. I couldn’t just work for 15 or 20 minutes while they were napping.”

Picz opened Firefolk Arts in June after moving with her family to Warren from Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2020. Having worked as a commercial food photographer for eight years, she said that she was looking for something different. In her new space, she curates art events, workshops and pop-up markets that highlight underrepresented artists and entrepreneurs from Vermont and beyond.