Falling down the rabbit hole into love is something that Sarah Bahbah‘s art portrays in its deconstructed beauty. Chances are, you’ve encountered her work on Instagram. Love, sex and relationships are told with raw weight. “Indulge in your words, and indulge in your body,” so she says.
Her all-new series “I Could Not Protect Her,” is told in cinematic stills, illustrating the insecure emotions in relationships inspired by the desire to be simultaneously wanted and isolated. The Bahbah’s work is autobiographical – a personal inner dialogue that “consumes me, my heart and my mind.” The work she weaves is tasked with a duty, however – to make “transparency in our words and actions” more cognizant.
Read our interview below and check out unreleased stills above. New work is posted daily to her account.
The narrative behind “I Could Not Protect Her” is security, love and intimacy. How would you describe the series in your own words?
My most recent series is about the vulnerability we face when we feel we are on the giving end of a one sided relationship. It’s about the switch that flips between wanting to be loved and the fear of actually being loved. It’s about the chaos between the two, needing another when you are still searching for yourself. “I Could Not Protect Her,” the title, is inspired by a lack of security in the self, an insecurity that complicates any true sense of safety.
What inspired your method to storytelling?
I would attribute inspiration to my interpersonal relationships. The conversations that are had, the histories that are shared, the thoughts they stimulate and the feelings they spur.
I wanted somewhere I could honestly express the inner dialogue that accompanies my experiences – the things that I wish I had said or the things I actually said. You could say it’s the gaze into a parallel reality.
You’ve said that your work represents a personal inner dialogue and words you wish you had said. Is your work giving you the courage to do that more IRL?
Definitely. The reception to having the universe of my heart expressed so openly gives me strength. But people aren’t used to unfiltered emotions, so it’s getting me in a bit of trouble.
Love is complicated. Even with the emotional weight behind every still, are you ever challenged by what is still unsaid?
No matter how much I express, and express, and express – I choose to leave things unsaid. I choose to do this to protect myself. To maintain a healthy relationship with myself, I have to save some intimacy for just me.
To me, there’s a strong moral to “I Could Not Protect Her.” Would you say there’s a common thread in all your work and what would that be?
Because I work from within myself, I would say that I place honesty quite highly. The threads that weave my work together are transparency, indulgence, desire and connection. Apart from “Sex and Takeout,” and “Accept It,” I’ve always worked heavily with the theme of emotion. These are things that consume me, my heart and my mind. I have chosen to make these themes signatures to my work because they nourish me.
Have you had opposition to your stance on love and relationships?
Of course. There are so many different ways humans understand and interact with love. No two relationships in this world were ever the same. Every human has a different language of love so I take on any opposition to the way I view love as a way to challenge myself and grow. Simply put, that’s what relationships are. The challenge isn’t the opposition but the desire to express yourself honestly, understand the other person and love them how they need.
How is the Internet changing how people view artwork?
Because of the Internet, it is easier for people to view and appreciate art that they probably wouldn’t have had access to before. It is a great place for people to inform themselves on what art is out there. The nature of the Internet allows people to collect artworks that they cherish, and because of social media individuals can create personalized online galleries. It is great to see the art world bleed into the Internet.
The negative side to all of this is embedded in society’s consumption habits. There is so much art available on the Internet and this has a saturating effect. The quick blogging nature of social media has caused some desensitization to art. In my opinion, it only becomes a real problem when credit is not given where it is due. I am pretty vocal about my issues with copyright because, to me, it feels like theft on a personal level. You have to take the good with the bad.
I just wonder how much respect for the practice of art is being traded for greater accessibility and visibility.
Have people made parallels between your work and memes? Is that a negative connotation to you?
I actually don’t mind this description. A meme is something relatable and shareable, and if my art has that same essence, I think it is a positive. If my expression can’t be understood then maybe I’d feel more isolated but I actually take the “elegant meme” reference as a compliment.
You champion a tale about emotional transparency. What is one message you want to tell women everywhere?
The aspiration that I live by is: transparency in our words and actions is the future of emotional freedom.
Be rid of shame. Be rid of guilt. Replace these barriers with freedom. As women, we need to feel ownership over our desires and pride in our pleasures. Indulge in your words and indulge in your body. Put your heart first.
I gave a lot of myself to “I Could Not Protect Her” so it is time to recharge. I am currently in Sedona, Arizona, taking in the energy of the desert. Who knows where I will be on the other side of this solo retreat.