The Sweat of their Face: Portraying American Workers

The Sweat of Their Face - Smithsonian

I went to see an art and photographs installation at the National Portrait Gallery called The Sweat of their Face: Portraying American Workers.

The Sweat of Their Face - Smithsonian

The sweat of their face(s)

I was drawn in part to the exhibition’s subject matter. (The line for the Obama’s new portraits was also extraordinarily long.) I wanted to know if the apparent grammatical error of “their face” was intentional. American workers, after all, have many faces, not just one.

Nothing about the exhibition suggests the intention of depicting a single face of the American worker. The faces are as diverse as Americans themselves. In addition, many of the workers show no sign of sweat at all. The exhibition is simply unfortunately named. It does illustrate, ironically, that there is more than one face of the American worker.

While myopic, the exhibition still provokes. The collection by no means runs the full gamut of labor, but it does offer select insightful portraits. Here are some of my favorites.

The Sweat of Their Face - Smithsonian

The Sweat of Their Face - Smithsonian

The Sweat of Their Face - Smithsonian

The Sweat of Their Face - Smithsonian

The Sweat of Their Face - Smithsonian

The Sweat of Their Face - Smithsonian

About Brian V. Lee 496 Articles
Brian V. Lee provides bankruptcy, foreclosure defense, business turnaround, and litigation services to clients in the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Maryland. Brian was the Washington, D.C. state chair of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys from 2016 to 2018.

2 Comments on The Sweat of their Face: Portraying American Workers

  1. Thank you for sharing this. Great photos. Would you know if this is a traveling exhibit or a one-time only D.C. event? I have been saying for years I need to revisit D.C. and its museums.

    • The website states that the exhibition features loans from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, J. Paul Getty Museum, and Phillips Collection, amongst others, but doesn’t say whether they’re taking it on the road.

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