Mary K. Borkowski (American, 1916–2008), Toil, Strength, and Devotion, 1973, hand stitching with silk thread on velvet, 20 1/8 x 29 1/4 in. (51.1 x 74.3 cm), Collection of Richard Rosenthal
Hello, my name is Jill Cleary, and I am the museum’s visitor research coordinator. I will be reading the verbal description for Toil, Strength, and Devotion by Mary K. Borkowski in Creating Connections: Self-Taught Artists in the Rosenthal Collection.
Mary K. Borkowski was an American artist who lived from 1916 to 2008. Toil, Strength, and Devotion, from 1973, was crafted using hand stitching with silk thread on velvet. It is in the collection of Richard Rosenthal.
Toil, Strength, and Devotion is a horizontally oriented needlework picture measuring 20 and one-eighth inches by 29 and one-quarter inches, or 51.1 centimeters by 74.3 centimeters. Mary Borkowski created a pastoral scene using hand-stitching with silk thread on an olive-green velvet ground. In the center midground, we see a team of three black horses pulling a plow on which a figure in gray sits. Behind this figure, a man dressed in blue coveralls and a cap hunches over slightly as he sows seeds, and a large sunflower, a yellow dog, and a black cat are positioned directly behind him. They are plowing fields, and the artist has used a variety of stitches and colors to denote the different crops. The colors include shades of red, orange, yellow, purple, blue, and green. In the foreground, a curving fence stretches across most of the center of the image. A black and white cow, facing toward the scene’s center, stands in the lower left corner. A cardinal facing the three large horses sits on the ground just to the right of the center. In the background and to the right is a small farm surrounded by a fence. In the sky, we see a variety of clouds. To the left, a storm cloud, complete with lightning bolts and rain; in the center, white and gray clouds with horizontal stitches in warm pink and peach to denote a colored sky; and to the right more, white fluffy clouds. A gray and pink cloud in the upper right surrounds an orange sun. A black airplane flies just above the central clouds.
Hello, my name is Jill Cleary, and I am the museum’s visitor research coordinator. I will be reading the label for Toil, Strength, and Devotion by Mary K. Borkowski in Creating Connections: Self-Taught Artists in the Rosenthal Collection.
Mary K. Borkowski was an American artist who lived from 1916 to 2008. Toil, Strength and Devotion, from 1973, was crafted using hand stitching with silk thread on velvet. It is in the collection of Richard Rosenthal.
A collection of childhood memories on the family farm near Sulphur Lick, Ohio, inspired Mary K. Borkowski. In this needlework landscape, her father plants a field, diligently followed by the dog Tilly and Mary’s beloved cat Sweetie Pie. Sheep turn toward her grandmother’s home to escape the coming storm. “Tucked back in God’s country, it was a big thing when we saw an airplane going over high in the sky. My favorite bird is the beautiful cardinal, so I had to include him and by his facing the horses in a test of bravery shows not by our size do we overcome.”
Collector Richard Rosenthal first saw Borkowski’s work in the early 1970s and decided to visit her Dayton, Ohio, home. “I was stunned by the detail, the drama, and the way she told a story with the deftness of her fingers…. [She was] soft spoken, welcoming…. Her work was as striking as it was abundant.”