Untitled (Mural for the Pittsfield, NJ post office)
New Masses, August 11, 1942
In this mural, painted by Anton Refregier for the Pittsfield, New Jersey post office and reproduced in New Masses, the value of women’s work is both underscored and undercut. Refregier shows labor in early America as clearly divided on a gendered basis. Four male figures stand in the back of the composition playing a game of horseshoes, while three women are seated at the front of the picture plane, intently sewing a large quilt. The importance of women’s industry and production is highlighted; the men engage in leisure activities while the women are emphasized as workers. Unfortunately, by showing the women engaged in domestic production, the artist is reasserting and reinforcing traditional gendered systems of labor rather than subverting or challenging them. Although the female figures are foregrounded, the positioning of the men standing above the women subtly reinforces a privileging of men over women.