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"Psychological Traces" at iMOCA confronts obsession in many forms

Sarah Hobb's show explores the line of artistic obsession

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Sarah Hobb's piece entitled "Prom Forever"
  • Sarah Hobb's piece entitled "Prom Forever"

Sarah Hobbs's work explores the fine lines in obsessive behavior — like what you do after a compulsive behavior stops relieving anxiety.

She calls this feeling "liminal space." In this space, you just might become consumed by a brand new obsessive-compulsive disorder. Or maybe, just maybe, you throw yourself into making artwork.

Her installations are often composed in domestic settings — sometimes in places where she's lived — then photographed. Her exhibit Psychological Traces, which she describes as a mini-retrospective and consists of photographs of her installations, opened Jan. 8 at iMOCA's CityWay Gallery.

Hobbs was born in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1970 and grew up in Columbus, Georgia. Her childhood home sat adjacent to the home of American writer Carson McCullers, best known for her novel The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Hobbs currently lives and works in Atlanta. McCullers' home is where Psychological Traces began.

Dan Grossman: You did an installation in Carson McCullers home called Flight in Place in 2015.  Can you describe that?


Sarah Hobbs:
I knew the family that lived there. So I know the house very well. So when I was asked to do this, I didn't want to create an installation that directly had to do with Carson. But I did want to have something in my piece that honored her a little bit. So Flight in Place has everything to do with someone feeling stuck at home in their circumstance and wanting nothing more than to escape and to explore the world. So there's a high level of romanticism as well for someone who has never experienced it. So the room was filled with travel information. There were two bookshelves that were filled. All the books were travel books and they were all tabbed with post-it notes, every single one of them.... [The installation] refers a little to Carson because that's how she felt in Columbus. She felt very different; people didn't understand her and she couldn't wait to leave. Of course, when she was gone, she was incredibly homesick. So wherever she was, it didn't quite live up to the romantic idea that she had of it.

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Dan: Does this relate at all to how you got interested in art?

Sarah: I would say there is certainly a little bit of that in there. When I was growing up, I didn't dislike Columbus, I had a very happy childhood, but there was always the desire to go somewhere else. ... Our family didn't travel all that much. ... You'd meet people from other parts of the country or the world and you just thought "I want to go there..." So there's a part of that that's me and a part of it also that somewhat felt a little misunderstood because I was interested in art and talking about literature and I didn't have a lot of friends who were interested in what I was interested in. So I yearned to find some camaraderie elsewhere.

Dan: How does the idea of obsession run through your current work at iMOCA?

Sarah: So the show is a mini-retrospective because it's got work from the very beginning to now. ... There's a piece entitled "Prom Forever" and it's in a basement. It's about a person for whom the prom was the ultimate moment of their life when they were the happiest. So they have this secret prom in their basement where they can go and visit that feeling again. So it's the obsession with this feeling leads a person to create in their home that takes them back to that time or it could be someone who never went to the prom and feels like they missed out on an important part of life and it gnawed at them until they actually decided to create a prom to create that feeling.

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