Domestic Mythology


Most women in Mexico perform domestic work. Some get paid as housekeepers, but many more perform hours of daily chores, childcare, and other housework without getting paid or even acknowledged. Although their contributions are usually ignored, they keep the Mexican economy going. Maria Ezcurra explores their contribution with her work "The Perfect Housewife," "Waitress," and "Domestic Mythology."
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© Maria Ezcurra

Maria Ezcurra focuses her artwork on the issue of identity of the female body and the position that women occupy in society. In her work, which is represented either by sculptures or documentation of installations and performance art, Ezcurra depicts stereotypical acts of femininity that parody gender intolerance. Her goal in her work is to encourage the expansion of human and civil rights for women today.

For Focusing on Latin America, Ezcurra presents three projects: "The Perfect Housewife," "Waitress" and "Domestic Mythology." "The Perfect Housewife" shows Ezcurra performing typical acts of domestic work: Ironing, serving food, and sitting with a husband. Similarly, "Waitress" shows Ezcurra acting as the typical female hostess. In both "The Perfect Housewife" and "Waitress", Ezcurra literally incorporates herself into the work, wearing clothes that conform to and are incorporated in the domestic act, symbolizing how women and domestic work are assumed to be irrevocably combined. This domestic work is a form of repression, and in some intangible way, a form of domestic violence.

In "Domestic Mythology," Ezcurra presents a series of embroidered fabric pieces that depict mythological creatures performing domestic work. The aim is to depict the idea that the stereotype of a woman, a "domestic goddess", is nothing more than a myth. In using embroidery on fabric, Ezcurra sends this message using a typically feminine medium.


In Latin America, 81 percent of women without their own income do unpaid domestic work. Experts believe that the financial crisis has aggravated the gap between paid work and unpaid care and work that women provide to children, the elderly, and other family members, and that now more women than ever are performing unpaid domestic work.

While not necessarily fair, the division between men's paid work and women's unpaid work has been essential to economic systems because it guarantees a workforce subsidized by unpaid women's work, since women produce goods and provide services for free that would otherwise need to be paid for with salaries or by the government.
On the other hand, unpaid caregivers often receive less respect in society, and their work is not incorporated into economic measures such as GDP.
Besides the many women who perform unpaid domestic work, there are also at least two million paid domestic workers in Mexico. Domestic work is the third most important source of income for Mexican women, yet its value is not recognized as integral to the economy, and domestic workers usually have no job security or benefits and receive very little respect. They are often paid an average of $6 US dollars a day for shifts that last 12 hours or longer.

María Ezcurra was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1973 and has lived in Mexico since 1978. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the National School of Plastic Arts, and received a Masters in Visual Arts from the Chelsea School of London in 1998. She has an MFA in New Genres from the San Francisco Art Institute. Ezcurra has participated in over 50 individual and 10 group exhibitions in countries such as Australia, USA, England, Holland, Greece, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Mexico. In 2007 she was invited to participate in the Artist Pension Trust in Mexico City. Her work is in several private collections, as well as in the Hishhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., USA, and the University of Essex in Britain. She has taught at La Esmeralda, the UACM, Central and UAEM, where she has worked since 2001.


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Comments (5)

Joan Garvan
Joan Garvan

Excellent - love the picture - though it is hard to look at - this still needs to be said - thank you for doing so. JG - zootma

Is there any relation prior to the art project and this article, or vice versa? I just found by coincidence the following article after browsing the IMOW site, and it has a strong correlation: "At a Gala Dinner in China, Women Serve As Part of the Furniture" by Hannah Beech, TIME Magazine online, September 21, 2011.


Hi Evelin, thank you very much for your sharing. I’ve been trying to find the answer to your question. The event (World Economic Forum) mentioned in this article was held in Dalian, China from Sept.14 this year, before which I think Ms.Ezcurra had already created the artworks. However, I still have no idea whether there is any connection between these two. As a comment below the article says, the idea of “furniture girl” was pictured in the movie “Soylent Green” long long time ago.
As for the article itself, I have to point out that the author in the article is being too rational because the criteria of picking “Miss Manners” are almost the same no matter in China or in western countries. Think about it. Don’t you recruit girls who have tall and beautiful figures as the guide girl? Don’t you require guide girls wear certain costumes in particular PR events? Don’t you agree with that in an international prestigious event, strapless dresses seem much more formal? I myself as a PR practitioner, I do see that quite often in successful PR cases in America.
However, I do agree with it that these phenomenons need people’s attention about women status. I only talk about China. Now the perceptions of women’s status in China are still men-driven, i.e. directly or somehow we may say subtly influenced by what men think about. The saying, quoted from the Dalian official, actually represents the values of most of the old generation (born around 1950) in china. China is developing rapidly, that’s for sure, but the stereotype mindset engraved in most people’s minds can’t catch up with the speed. That’s why it is of great significance to improve the current condition.

Thank you for posting your comment and annotation! Yes, I knew that maybe just my comparison of both brought it together! But I've been very much surprised about the alliance and still am now!

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