Wednesday, September 20, 2006

"Self-Portrait: the Autoworker" (oil -- 48x60") This is currently on display at Oakland Community College, Orchard Ridge Campus (Farmington Hills, MI) Smith Theater, in the "From Our Perspective" art show, put on by the OCC Women's Center. I was just notified this painting won the President's Award. It will be on display through the end of October.

All my friends see this and immediately say, "But you're not smiling! You don't look happy!" Well, of course -- it's exhausting, boring work! I have worked at the Ford Wixom Assembly Plant that is scheduled to close in May of 2007. Earlier this year I wanted to create a kind of memorial to all my years of working there. So I created a montage of some of the different jobs I've done in the past 29 years. Up above, at the top of the painting is a beautiful sunrise sky with birds flying. The bird in the center has my smiling face. That part of the painting symbolizes how I'll feel when I retire: free as a bird. ALL us autoworkers fantasize about retirement.

That's a fiberglass bumper I'm holding in the picture. I used to hang 500 of those a night, from 5:30 PM to 4 AM. I'd be soaked in sweat and covered in fiberglass all night. Before that job, I worked in Cushion, stapling foam cushions to spring frameworks with a heavy "hog ringer" gun. One of my favorite jobs was on the Final Line, sitting on a scooter, shooting pop rivets and hooking up fuel injector lines. The worst jobs were the ones involving crawling inside cars. I remember laying half inside/half outside cars, struggling to yank out a pin from the brake pedal, being dragged along, having my jeans and shoes being slowly shredded to pieces.

One hot, summer night I had to install carpet. At the time, there was no such thing as an ergonomic lift arm. I had to fold each carpet into quarters and carry it over to the car and throw it inside, crawl in and fight with it to fit it into the corners. Was that ever a hot, heavy, nasty, lint-filled job!

For the past 16+ years I've been in the Paint Department, working my way up from Sealer to Wet Sander, finally on to Group Leader in the paint repair/polish area, right before the cars are shipped off to Trim. Now I spend a lot of time on the computer, making charts, collecting data, taking notes at meetings, error-proofing, resolving safety issues, giving bathroom calls, and just a hundred different little things. Needed by all, appreciated by none.

I'll always be grateful for Ford Motor Company's old educational scholarship program (now severly curtailed) that paid for my art instruction.