|Acquisition Number: 2020.12
Porcelain slip-cast multiples, slip-dipped porcelain fired to cone 6, re-fired found objects, ceramic decals
20 x 18 x 18 in.
Credit: Purchased by the Canton Museum of Art
"As a new mom, no advice was more frustrating than 'Sleep when the baby sleeps.' This Madonna has been layered with over-fired decals reminiscent of faded traditional wallpaper, articles about sleep deprivation, and mommy blog quotes. Her precarious tower illustrates the realities of early motherhood."
- Jessica Gardner
"Sleep when the Baby Sleeps" symbolizes how society puts mothers on an unrealistic pedestal. The Virgin Mary has always been portrayed as the idealized mother, smiling and beautiful and glowing, not portraying the reality of motherhood. Gardner says, “Historical renderings of the Madonna and child do not have her covered in spit up and crying from exhaustion. Her depicted perfection compounded my sense of failure as I confronted my messy daily life, conflicted hormonal emotions, and feelings of ineptitude. My initial sense of guilt at my deficiencies was soon joined by frustration that the Madonna did not represent motherhood as the visceral experience it is - the physical and emotional changes that extend beyond pregnancy and giving birth or even breast feeding that indelibly alter you for better or for worse.”
The figure of Mary in this piece is on a pedestal adorned with pretty floral decorative things, but she’s stacked on a precarious pile of objects of what’s really going on under the surface – a breast pump, dirty dishes, dirty clothing - the reality. All of these things look like they’re about to crash down at any minute. Juggling all of these things, knowing that it could all come crashing down at any minute, is overwhelming, but Mary is expected to keep up appearances regardless. Gardner says, “I view my work as hopeful but also painfully honest. Home is where the heart is, but our heads are filled with the expectations of motherhood in modernity.”