“Sarah Hobbs: Emotional Management”
Through Jan. 9. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays. Solomon Projects. 1037 Monroe Drive. 404-875-7100. www.solomonprojects.com
The bottom line: Sarah Hobbs gets into her head and ours in these perceptive and imaginative photographs.
By Catherine Fox
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 the house.
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 Mind.”
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 arch.
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.
Catherine Fox blogs about art and architecture at www.ArtsCriticAtl.com