The large-scale still-life photographs in Sarah Hobbs: Out of Mind, at Silver Eye Center for Photography, display carefully controlled chaos. Hobbs makes neurosis tangible through staged scenes portraying the aftermath of obsession.
In "Perfection," a worn wooden desk bearing only a fountain pen and a towering stack of blank white paper is threatened by an avalanche of crumpled and discarded sheets, also seemingly blank. In "Ladies' Man," a loveseat is bracketed by shelves holding wine corks lined up like soldiers, each above the name of the woman for whose conquest the bottle was opened. The homeowner's dilemma is brought to life in "Indecisiveness," wherein paint swatches line walls from floor to ceiling.
Despite illuminating human shortcomings, in their construction the tableaux can verge on the robotic. The pages abandoned in "Perfection" have been molded into near-perfect balls and meticulously built into an aesthetically pleasing mountain. The evidence in "Ladies' Man" is machine-like in its uniformity.
Typically, fallibility is conveyed with compassion and affection, creating empathy for the unseen afflicted. This is at its best in "Insomnia" and "Until I See Something Good." In the former, Post-Its are suspended above a rumpled bed like thought bubbles. Some bear numbers, many the calculation of the time remaining before the alarm blares. There are also the instruction "Relax," lyrics to "Delta Dawn" and, simply, "What did she mean by that?" The latter is also a flurry of paper -- ink blots folded, perused and rejected in search of something better and yet hidden, a challenge worthy of Rorschach.
All of the works are beautifully rendered, sharply focused and clearly realized. The depicted rooms are immaculate, except for the flotsam and jetsam of mania, and often resemble the offspring of an Ikea outlet and home for the severely disturbed. Captured is the lunacy of worrying an idea to the hilt, while acknowledging that that impetus exists even in the most normal of us.
Sarah Hobbs: Out of Mind continues through March 12. Silver Eye Center for Photography, 1015 E. Carson St., South Side. 412-431-1810 or www.silvereye.org