“Workshop of the World” is a diptych set of rugs inspired by Rodin’s Gates of Hell. One rug refers to... Read More
“Workshop of the World” is a diptych set of rugs inspired by Rodin’s Gates of Hell. One rug refers to the interior spaces of Glen Foerd, while the other depicts Northeast Philadelphia and the setting of the former Vici Kid leather factory. They hang as gates for visitors to pass through, with small cutouts that mimic the doors of the Polish Catholic church in Bridesburg.
Most of the figures in the rugs are laborers. Referencing Eastern Orthodox icons such as the “Last Judgment,” the working-class characters bear halos and struggle upwards on a moral climb toward heaven. They dutifully act out a Protestant fetishization of labor that equates work ethic with redemption and godliness—but only for those whose class condition requires them to work in the first place.
The Glen Foerd interior rug shows workers laboring “below stairs” while their employers lounge above. Work-focused spaces like the basement, kitchen, servant stairs and sleeping rooms show scenes of the various labor performed throughout the estate’s history. We know that Glen Foerd depended on many domestic staff in roles like Gardener, Butler, Governess, and Ladies Maid. In Millionaire Households and Their Domestic Economy, Mary E. Carter describes the Ladies Maid as “always attached to one end of an electric wire, in readiness to respond to a call.” The centrally located call box, which once rang when the Foerderers wanted to summon servants to different rooms, links by wire to each worker in the rug.
The exterior rug imagines Northeast Philadelphia past and present, including buildings like the Vici Kid factory that no longer stand. The gridded warehouse window appears alongside stained glass facades of historic churches, framing exalted laborers who once enjoyed the boom of factory work. Skilled textile manufacturing contrasts with the lowly work of tanning leather, a job relegated to poor Polish immigrants. This piece also centers the clock, which had a new and dramatic influence on workers’ lives in the Industrial Revolution.