Visitors to the Corcoran Gallery of Art on the first Saturday of September shuffled past a bizarre sight: a woman dressed in a traditional Colombian attire, sweeping the floor and washing windows to the loud tune of Latin pop songs.
It was an odd sight to see at the museum’s entrance, which is flanked by 19th century busts, sculpted by Hiram Powers. Many visitors ignored the woman, giving her little more than a confused glare before going on their way, pushing through the glass-door entrance and dirtying the panes she had just cleaned. One of the spectators, who had joined a small crowd gathered around this event, even blurted out, “What’s with that window-washer?”
However, the woman wasn’t a member of the museum’s janitorial staff. Her name is Carolina Mayorga, and she was performing her latest act, “Maid in the USA,” in which she works to explore the stereotypes, both visible and unseen, that revolve around Latin Americans in this nation’s service industry.
“Maid in the USA” is part of the Corcoran’s nine-week series entitled “Take It to the Bridge.” The series revolves around a glass-box, known as “the Bridge,” which was built atop the doors of the museum’s entranceway.
Occasionally, Mayorga would climb a ladder and place herself in the box. That’s no easy feat, considering the burdensome dress she was wearing.
“It’s so unexpected to see this kind of piece in a gallery setting,” Sarah Durkee, the museum’s vice president of public education, said. “But it’s great, because it allows us to experiment with our audience. People can’t help but interact with the performance.”
“Maid in the USA” offered an easy-to-miss glimpse into a world that is often ignored. Despite the obvious humor of watching a woman dressed in traditional garb taking her lunch-break in a transparent glass-box, there was obviously a great deal of heart put into the work. While it is an odd sight to see in a museum setting hosting pieces that range from Peale to Picasso, “Maid in the USA” was an interesting, if not thought-provoking, act showcasing a people and service that is often taken for granted.
Two performances remain for the Bridge series. “Bridging the Light,” by Anne Albagli, will begin on Sept. 9, and will set out to explore the manipulation of light that can be achieved through the transparent glass-box atop the Corcoran’s entrance. The series will conclude on Sept. 15, with “This Space Occupied (by Maida),” wherein Maida Withers and Steve Hilmy will work from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. improvising a performance centered around the Occupy Movement.