The Carrying Stones Project Sheds Light on Women’s Labor Inequities

The Carrying Stones Project, a series of large-scale artworks by artist Sawyer Rose, is currently being exhibited at the University of Redlands Art Gallery from Feb. 14 through March 12. The exhibit combines art and data visualization to ignite public discussion about women’s work inequity. “I’ve been working on it for 7 years now,” Rose explained. She began the project when she became a mother and worked a full-time job to support her children. “I was really feeling the pressure,” she said. This pressure became the catalyst for Rose to research and collect data concerning women’s labor, both paid and unpaid.

“I found all kinds of things that really didn’t seem fair to me. There were a lot of inequities in the system,” Rose said of her findings. Her goal in crafting the sculptures for the Carrying Stones project is to relay the inequities she found to her audience. 

The exhibit consists of four large imaginative sculptures and three painted canvases. Each sculpture represents the daily schedules of four women who are pictured using materials from their respective sculpture. The canvases reflect the data collected by Rose concerning the gender pay gap, percentages of women in leadership positions (government, business, law, medicine), and academic inequities. Gold and silver motifs are noticeable across each sculpture and canvas which reveal similarities in each of these women’s lives. “The topic I’m talking about most often when I’m discussing women’s work inequities are specifically the amount of paid and unpaid labor that women do. In most of my sculptures I use gold to represent paid labor and silver to represent unpaid labor,” Rose said of her choice of palette. She purposefully references how gold is considered more valuable than silver when it shouldn’t be. “Women’s unpaid labor should be just as valued as paid labor, but in our society it is not. It’s accorded much less status,” Rose continued.

Each sculpture also reveals a hidden detail about the women she met with: how little time they have when not working. Within each block of time covering paid and unpaid labor are small windows of space in between. That space is itself a motif in the sculptures, one that represents the time that is spent not working. They are chunks of time severely outweighed by those spent occupied. 

“Once you understand how to read one of the sculptures, you understand how to read all of them,” Rose said of each sculpture’s narrative.

The Carrying Stones project is a traveling exhibition, set to tour universities and museums across the United States. By sharing this body of work with a broader range of audiences, Rose seeks to spread nationwide awareness of women’s labor disparities and kickstart conversations on how to make steps towards improvement. “I feel like the more eyeballs we can get on this project, the more people are gonna be informed on a topic they maybe didn’t know anything else about before,” Rose said.

Photo by Caroline Blanchard.