The work mothers do often gets dismissed as not being work. Cleaning, cooking, corralling, comforting: all of it is labor, either physical, emotional, or both. But we measure productivity by paychecks, and all of that labor is unpaid.
Brooklyn-based artist Jessica Olah is trying to illustrate that labor in a performance she describes as “an exercise in empathy” focused on her own mother.
Olah did the math. Her mother made her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every single school day from 5 to 18. That comes out to 2340 sandwiches.
“I will explore what it was like for my mother to give her time, energy, and love to make a bag lunch 180 days per year for 13 years,” Olah explained on the page of her Indiegogo campaign, which raised the money to fund the project. She wants to draw attention to the lack of value given to “mother’s tasks,” which all too often translates to a lack of value given to the people themselves.
Rather than taking 14 years to make the sandwiches, as her mother did, Olah’s intention is to do so in five days. Her mother, who lives in California, will fly in to New York to witness the finale of the project on Sunday, January 31st, and receive the last sandwich. The rest will be donated, in two batches a day, to Bowery Mission’s kitchen.
During the project, Olah expects to use fifty-nine 16-slice loaves per day. 10 gallons of locally-made jam and an equal amount of organic peanut butter have been donated, and she hopes those are enough.
If people want to see the finale, Olah predicts she’ll be finishing on time at 6pm on Sunday the 31st. She and her sandwiches are at 12C Outdoor Art Gallery on Avenue C in Manhattan.