Since 1977, when Mierle Laderman Ukeles became the official, unsalaried Artist-in-Residence at the New York City Department of Sanitation—a position she still holds—she has created art that deals with the endless maintenance and service work that “keeps the city alive,” urban waste flows, recycling, ecology, urban sustainability and our power to transform degraded land and water into healthy inhabitable public places. 
Her most recent exhibition was a 50 year career survey at the Queens Museum, NYC that filled the whole museum inside and outside (September 18, 2016—February 19, 2017. Her most well known projects include MANIFESTO FOR MAINTENANCE ART 1969! and TOUCH SANITATION PERFORMANCE (1977-80) in which she traveled to all 59 Sanitation districts all over NYC to face, shake hands with 8,500 sanitation workers and to say to each, “Thank you for keeping New York City alive;”and CEREMONIAL ARCH HONORING SERVICE WORKERS(1988-2017).She has completed seven Work Ballets co-choreographed with workers, barges, and hundreds of tons of recyclables in France, Holland, Japan, Pittsburgh and NYC(1983-2013). Environmental transformation projects for landfills include her Percent for Art commission called LANDING, the first permanent environmental public artwork, for Freshkills Park in Staten Island, New York (once the largest municipal landfill in the world), Danehy Park in Cambridge since 1990, and Evapotranspiration for Hiriya, a temporary installation at the Tel Aviv Museum. 
Ukeles asks whether we can design modes of survival –for a thriving planet, not an entropic one –that don’t crush our personal and civic freedom and silence the individual’s voice. 
Two books have recently been published about her work: MIERLE LADERMAN UKELES: MAINTENANCE ART, Prestel, 2016 and SEVEN WORK BALLETS, Sternberg, 2015. 
Other recent and earlier exhibitions were at the Art Institute of Chicago; P.S. 1/MOMA; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco; Tang Museum, Skidmore College, NY; Kunstverein Graz, Austria; Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol, UK; 13thIstanbul Biennial, Sharjah Biennial 8, Manifesta10, St. Petersburg; Whitney Museum; Wellcome Trust, London; Haus der Kunst, Munich; Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford. Awards presented to the artist include multiple grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the NY State Council on the Arts, fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim, the Foundation for Jewish Culture, Andy Warhol, Joan Mitchell, and Anonymous Was a Woman Foundations among others; she has received honorary doctorates from the Rhode Island School of Design and the Maine College of Art. She received a BA in international relations and history from Barnard College in 1961, and an MA in Interrelated Arts from New York University in 1974.She is represented by Ronald Feldman Fine Arts in NYC.