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Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art (Tephra ICA) presents Unstable Propositions, a solo-exhibition by Richmond-based artist Sarah Irvin.

Tephra ICA at Signature, located at the Signature apartment building in Reston, VA, is an innovative satellite gallery space that presents a year-round schedule of exhibitions featuring work by local and regional artists as selected by Tephra ICA curatorial staff. Visitors are welcome Tuesday–Saturday, 11am–5pm.

Tephra ICA at Signature is provided in partnership with Boston Properties and Bozzuto, and generously sponsored by Reston Community Center.

Unstable Propositions - Exhibitions - Tephra ICA

Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art (Tephra ICA) presents Unstable Propositions, a solo-exhibition by Richmond-based artist Sarah Irvin. An Opening Reception and Artist Talk will be held on August 15, 6–8pm.

Sarah Irvin chose to have a child and make work about the experience in an intentional effort to challenge her internalized narrative that motherhood and artistic practice are incompatible. The Unstable Propositions exhibition brings together works on paper from four distinct series, Breastfeeding Series, Connect the Dots, Paratext, and Public/Private, that Irvin has made since this decisive moment in her artistic practice. For each series, Irvin devises a mark-making procedure, and the quasi-textual compositions that result interrogate and subvert the systems of meaning-making to which they refer.

Irvin’s works explore the realms of pedagogy, motherhood, and the social contract by zeroing in on particular visual logics she encounters in the milieu of birthing and raising her child. Irvin transcribes the intimate conversation of breastfeeding, questions the binary between public and private space, destabilizes the function of the horizontal lines in handwriting practice sheets, and denies the gratifying final image of a connect the dots activity.

The obsessive quality of the artwork’s production compellingly argues that there is something worth reconsidering in these exercises. Each work on paper represents one instance of a repeated process, and the resulting fluctuation within each series makes space for contemplation. Of the inherent structures in our lives, Irvin poses the question – which ones make sense and what values do they hold?


Sarah Irvin earned a MFA in Painting from George Mason University and a BFA degree in Painting and Drawing from the University of Georgia. Irvin has been featured in more than twenty solo shows, as well as more than fifty group exhibitions, across the United States and abroad. Irvin’s work is included in the collections of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Capital One, Four Seasons Hotel, Federal Reserve Bank, and Royal Caribbean, as well as the private collections of Quirk Hotel, Try-Me Urban Restoration Project, and the University of Richmond. She is the founder of the Artist Parent Index, a searchable database of artists making work about their experience with reproduction and caring for their children. Irvin is represented by Kathryn Markel Fine Arts and Massey Klein Gallery, both in New York City. She lives and works in Richmond, VA. 

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