An Installation Artist Overhauls Rooms to Explore Our Neuroses
Sarah Hobbs, “Prom Forever (basement)." Images courtesy the artist

An Installation Artist Overhauls Rooms to Explore Our Neuroses

Artist Sarah Hobbs links living spaces to mental health in her immersive installations.
May 23, 2017, 3:13pm

What does your living space say about you? Does a tidy home belie an uptight personality? Conversely, does a messy one reveal a scattered mind? Visual artist Sarah Hobbs is fascinated by the link between dwelling spaces and psychology, and explores the connection through her practice. Hobbs creates installations in rooms designed to fit a certain psyche, then photographs and displays them as four-by-five foot images. Her exhibition of this work, Psychological Traces, is currently open at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art (iMOCA).


The rooms on display range from hectic, cluttered with papers crumbled on the floor, to neat. Some aim to tell a more detailed story. The piece Alarmist (Motel 6) features a motel room with a feeble tent pitched pathetically in the middle of the floor, giving the viewer insight into the inhabitant's struggles physically and mentally. All of her images, Hobbs says, are designed to make viewers think about their own psychology. What is the viewer experiencing, and what psychological struggles do they face?

Sarah Hobbs, "Alarmist (Motel 6)."

Creating work based on private space, such as a bedroom, offers a glimpse into how one truly lives their life. Honest actions rise to the surface when people are isolated, the Georgia-based artist points out. "That's the breathing room for your psyche," Hobbs says. "If you're the most comfortable there, then everything has room to breathe and grow."

There's a level of exaggeration in each photograph, she explains. One installation, Untitled (Perfectionist), features a writer's table surrounded by a suffocatingly high mound of crumpled papers. Hobbs goes for humor, she says, because it points out the absurdity that can result from thoughts and irrational behavior.

Sarah Hobbs, "Escapism"

While the pieces do implement humor, the majority works in Psychological Traces tackle serious issues of mental health and personal psychology, something Hobbs says everyone deals with, including herself.

"There isn't really such a thing as normal," the artist says. "I don't know anyone who doesn't have something that makes living just a little bit harder. What's interesting to me is that people usually don't talk about it, and that grows into bigger issues with mental health. It's not something that people talk about, but what makes all of us interesting are these little foibles that we have; things that make us have our home a certain way, or eat a certain way, or arrange things on our bedside table a certain way."


Sarah Hobbs, "Permanent Marker (occupied room)."

At openings of her shows, Hobbs says she recognizes people opening up and talking with each other about their personal struggles. Empathy, she says, has always been the goal. "You think locally and act globally with art," Hobbs says. "You start with yourself and then you try to make it more universal so it will be appealing and will touch other people."

Sarah Hobbs, "Until I See Something Good"

Sarah Hobbs, "Germaphobe (Doubletree Inn)"

Sarah Hobbs show Psychological Traces is open through June 21 at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art. You can see more of her work at here.


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