The Sleep Series: Sarah Irvin


May 2015


Smith, Anne

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Fenwick Gallery, George Mason University Libraries


Fenwick Gallery is proud to exhibit The Sleep Series by Sarah Irvin, part of a larger project called A Bringing Forth. This series of more than 100 watercolors was produced by Irvin in intervals— that is, while her infant daughter napped. Irvin marked the time in tick marks of various sizes and shades of blue. Some longer naps span several pieces of paper, containing hundreds of tick marks. Other naps were clearly very short, with not enough time, even, for Irvin to fill a single page. Within The Sleep Series are titles such as November 4, Morning Nap; November 19, Midday Nap, and December 18, Afternoon Nap. Each recorded nap is separated by a blank page, a pause in the activities of sleep and counting, measuring, working and waiting. Of course, a pause here is not really a pause, because it means that baby is awake. Activities of waking and caregiving happen in these intervals, which Irvin measures and records in other series within A Bringing Forth . Irvin likens the recorded naps to “words in one long sentence,” the blank pages like the spaces between words. Installed in a single row, The Sleep Series covers approximately 50 linear feet—the entire length of usable wall space in the gallery. To read the series from left to right truly is like reading one long sentence and the duration of the piece is powerful: on one hand, quiet and steady and on the other, bustling with the activity of a baby’s brain in sleep and the work of an artistmother.


Exhibition Catalog from The Sleep Series exhibit at the Fenwick Gallery, George Mason University


Visual art, Infants and sleep, Watercolor, Maternal thinking, Maternal theory, Mother studies