Painting a Unified Labor Force

"Dress Shop" by Ralph Fasanella (1972) owned by the Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY.
"Dress Shop" by Ralph Fasanella (1972) owned by the Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY.

This piece reveals the ability art has to address important political and social issues.  It depicts a garment factory symbolizing the factory that Fasanella worked in as a young man with his mother and sister.  Fasanella, his mother, and his sister are all painted in the scene, highlighting the import role the factory played in his family life.  There is a sign towards the bottom left of the factory which says “In Memory of Triangle Workers”.  This sign and the painting as a whole, is paying homage to the 146 young immigrant workers who perished in the Triangle Waist Factory Fire of 1911.  This fire was significant to labor history, as it revealed the poor working conditions of industrial workers.

The windows of the factory display historical newspaper headlines and the paintings of the events they describe.  Amongst the historical events are the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.  This component continues with the theme of paying homage to important historical events and those who have perished.  Fasanella kept newspaper clippings he found important in his studio in New York City as inspiration for his work.

To the left of the factory are 1920s New York City tenements and to the right of the factory are 1970s New York City apartment buildings.  This allows the viewer to compare and contrast living conditions in New York City in these two important decades of political and social change.

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