From 2006 to 2009 I devoted myself to photographing, rendering, and painting the construction workers in my Oakland studio neighborhood. My studio is located in the old produce section where warehouses are being converted into condominiums. As I watched the construction workers leave each day, they appeared to be satisfied with their work. I envied their methodical jobs: Clock in, take orders, build something, get paid, go home. I pondered the idea of departing from my abstract painting, to do something that methodical in my art work. I decided to photograph these men each day at the same time, when they were leaving work to go home, so I could paint them.

I likened each step in the process to constructing a building, each part contributing to the whole. I chose to paint in a gestured manner, not as a photorealist would, letting my artist's hand be evident as the witness and scribe. I have left as much of the process showing as possible: the drawings, the ruler edges, and the ruled squares. I've intentionally left the pieces unfinished, leaving first stages in the development visible as you might see in a construction site.

My intention was to complete a series of these workers on canvas, keeping them heroic in size, as with historical paintings. I saw these men making history, now changing the demographics of California. Because they are willing to do the lowest manual labor, they have become the backbone of our city and state. They have an investment in this place now that not many of us natives can say we have. I hope with this work to raise awareness of the part these noble workers play in our future.

After working on the Construction Worker series, I was encouraged by my peers to include women. Women construction workers were difficult to find, so I searched for another profession favored by women, one that would give the same satisfaction in their work. I was looking for nobility and heroic efforts. After months of consideration and false starts, I finally decided on the new urban farmers and women gardeners of the surrounding urban area.

A few courageous, hard working women have taken on the job of redeeming land in Oakland. They looked into unused weedy, cement lots and saw possibilities: Possibilities of growing vegetables and fruits, raising chickens for eggs, and, in some cases, raising animals for meat. They turned the land into community gardens, gardens they teach the owners to tend, or live off the land themselves.

I still endeavor to let the process show using gestural brush strokes, and I leave the canvases unfinished, mirroring the same unfinished look of the garden plots. I chose a limited palette to match the earthiness of the endeavor. Unlike most of my men, the women chose to smile, probably indicating the comfort they felt with a woman photographer.

I hope my work helps to shine some light on these women changing the landscape for a greener future in California.

Rosemary Allen 2018