b. Florence, AL; Lives and works in Richmond, VA
Sarah Irvin’s graphite drawings on paper record the experience of new life and motherhood. At various times while breastfeeding, the artist created drawings that codified her daughter's action of eating. Loops go up with a suck and round down with a swallow, transcribing the unreadable language of a baby at the breast. Also while breastfeeding, Irvin used a digital program to track the start time, breast side, and duration of each feeding. From this immense amount of data, the artist created an interactive sculpture resembling a card catalogue that allows the viewer to not only review different sessions, but physically acknowledge the significant amount time and energy needed for an often unacknowledged task.
In the artist’s rocking chair series, the act of caring for a baby is codified as a form of mark-making. Pieces of graphite hung from the underside of Irvin’s glider rocking chair and created marks on a piece of paper attached to the stationary base. The series began when her daughter was born and was completed the day she turned one. Anyone who used the rocking chair during the first year of the child’s life participated in the creation of the works.
The artist’s ongoing series, Cyanotype Archives, is comprised of multiple, overlapping archives created using her daughter’s belongings. Each piece has its own categorical parameter dictating what is included, and any object could appear in many different archives according to the selected criterion.
Archives, often understood as authoritative entities with stable parameters, are presented here in varying possibilities and as the result of an active agent: the artist/archivist. Examining a child’s material surroundings in this way frames the role of a caregiver or parent as active as well, but in the formation of a child’s understanding of the world through the management of their material experiences.
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