Mental disorders inform Hobbs' show at Solomon Projects
by Catherine Fox
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
December 8, 2009
If These Walls Could Talk: Photographer Sarah Hobbs
experiments with weird science
June 8, 2006
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Frames of Mind
June 1, 2006
download the pdf
Some artists who aim to evoke human emotions depict parallels
in nature, say, or a budding tree to symbolize hope. Others
rely on the music of abstract visual language, suggesting moods
through color and shape. Sarah Hobbs finds her metaphors around
To put a finer point on it, the Atlanta artist stages scenes
in her home to make the perceptive photographs now at Solomon
Projects that somehow merge empathy, comedy and the "Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" (DSM).
Shot to suggest the graphic aplomb of a spread in House Beautiful,
each photo frames an identifiable space — the bathroom,
the dining room — which is bright, well-kept and nicely
appointed. All the better to surprise the viewer with the dramatic
or fantastical punch line.
For instance, one room contains a table with files covering
the top, a familiar enough sight. But Hobbs strung together
paper clips to create a cross between a fence and a huge cobweb
and draped it over the desk. The picture is subtitled "Avoidance."
It's a clever, accessible metaphor, inducing a shock of recognition,
even if your preferred method of distraction from duty is refolding
sweaters or cruising Facebook.
"Purging" is more discomfiting. Hobbs moves beyond
universal foibles to behavior that would have a DSM code. The
photo is dominated by a grid of sheets of white paper. An open
journal lying beside it is the source of the pages, which have
all been erased.
Who hasn't on occasion wanted to shed painful memories, to forget
the past and start over? But it's one thing to symbolically
toss your diary into the trash and another to ritually erase
each page and mark your progress by hanging it on the wall.
Though the pages look blank from a distance, a closer look reveals
the shadow of the words on closer examination. A Freudian might
take that as a reminder that the subconscious never forgets.
Makes me think of the film "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless
This is one of the tougher pieces in the show. Usually, Hobbs
serves up even clinical disorders with a dollop of humor. Wit
is disarming but tricky because it can devolve into a one-line
joke. "Catharsis" veers in that direction. Though
it works as a picture, the lime green room whose floor and table
are strewn with broken shards of white tableware seems a bit
Even when an individual picture comes up a bit short, the ensemble
offers food for thought. It reflects the way that psycho-patter
has become ingrained in the culture. Think of neurotic cultural
(anti) heroes such as Woody Allen, the raft of television talk
shows from Dr. Phil to Oprah Winfrey, dream-analysis telephone
services. Given the upper-middle-class milieu, is Hobbs suggesting
that these are maladies of affluence (i.e., we have the luxury
of self-awareness/absorption) or a suggestion that polished
exteriors don't necessarily reflect what's going on inside?
At the least, Sarah Hobbs' photos are consolation. In conjuring
up states of mind we recognize as our own, she assures us we
are not alone.
The bottom line: Sarah Hobbs gets into her head and ours in
these perceptive and imaginative photographs.— http://blogs.ajc.com/arts-culture/2009/12/08/mental-disorders-inform-hobbs-show-at-solomon-projects/