Arizona artist Sara Hubbs creates blown-glass sculptures that examine concepts of value, temporality, and care.
Sara Hubbs is intimately familiar with breath’s capacity to be expressive, communicable, and life-giving—qualities of breath we’ve collectively reckoned with over the course of the last year and a half. Working frequently in blown glass, which uses breath to create various shapes and forms, Hubbs’s sculptural works and installations examine concepts of value, temporality, and care.
Hubbs’s blown-glass sculptures begin with source materials that are deeply embedded with human values while also intrinsically valueless. Children’s toy packaging is at once coded with the love and care involved in gifting and the excess and wastefulness of plastic toys that end up in landfills once they’ve been forgotten. Plastic food packaging provides sustenance with invaluable convenience that is matched by the ease with which it is tossed away. From assemblages of these raw materials, the artist creates plaster molds and then uses breath to inflate molten glass into slouching, bulging, and gleaming forms and vessels. Some of the objects become zombie-like in their glassy refusal to die. Others are voluptuous and effulgent, with shapely lumps and folds of skin.
Each of these sculptures retains an embodied-ness that is drawn out by the artist’s installations in which the objects play off of one another. In Of The Horizon (2021), three blown-glass forms are set into a (coffin-like) bed of black sand, like mutant anemones at the bottom of the sea or creatures of an alien desert. In Las Fashionistas (2019-21), a vessel (Body 4 Lyfe) strides futilely forward on anchored steel legs, while its companion, Fall Flat On Your Face, has done just that and lies defeated—but at least it lies on a luxe bed of faux fur.
It comes naturally to speak of these objects as characters. They act as corollaries to the human body, riddled as it is with its own questions of societal value and perishability. “During COVID, both breath and intergenerational care became my focus. Home-bound with my school-aged child while my husband cared for patients at the hospital, I struggled to care for my sick mother from afar, restricting my breath around the people I cared for and guarding them against the breath of others,” she writes in her artist statement. “Blowing glass, sweating through the repetitive movements, learning to handle larger quantities of hot glass on my own, became my way to resist society’s expectations of my use-value and the shelf-life of the female body.” In the face of restriction, helplessness, and new lines drawn around “essential” work, Hubbs developed a more intuitive grasp of her materials and methods. She breathes life into these sculptures and—somewhere between animated and fossilized—they teeter provocatively on the edge of life-giving and laying waste.
The installation Tending the Garden (2021) verges toward the former. In it, a gravel bed is dotted with vases—some conventional, some colorful and wonky—each holding a green sprig of Baja spurge. Her title conjures Voltaire’s melancholic Candide, who vocalizes the best possible attitude in a world full of trash, pain, and distortion: “we must cultivate our garden” if we are to keep going, keep breathing.
Tucson, AZ | sarahubbs.com | ig: @sara.e.hubbs