2023 Contest

Making Work Visible

City University of New York / Labor Arts

Akilah Lisbon

Visual Arts  First PlaceAkilah Lisbon Biology, City College of New York
Gracias a Martín: Courtesy of the Custodian
acrylic on canvas , H 36” W 24”

Martín is my apartment building’s sole custodian as well as an immigrant from the Dominican Republic. Every week he pulls all of the building’s garbage through the parking lot on a small wooden trolley by himself. I can hear its wheels squeak and squeal from the pressure when I’d sit on the floor eating by my kitchen window. I thought I would illustrate my point of view, watching him go back and forth and back and forth with piles of bags through the medium of acrylic paint. The work is composed of a cool palette to reflect the cold that he toils in at this chilly time of year. Though most of this piece was painted with brushstrokes, at times I simply went back to the basics, working with my hands and blocking out shapes with my fingers to achieve the desired textures. After enough time, I was finally able to represent the labor of one of the most diligent members of my community.