“Barbara Astman’s career has spanned more than 23 years of photo-based media innovations, but has always been about more than the lure of new technology. Astman’s staged and sequential work suggests issues of identity, systems of representation, gender perspectives and the anti-narrative of popular irony.”- Ihor Holubizky, art/text 1998
“In the early 1980s, there was a clear delineation between what was considered photography and what was classified as art, and I felt I didn’t fit into either category. That is when I started calling myself a camera artist- one that was working within the contemporary art world as a whole.” -Barbara Astman
Whether household wares or store-bought novelty items such as key-chains, mugs, and ashtrays, much of Barbara Astman’s work involves the use of objects. Imbuing these with memories and histories by means of her artistic process, she dematerializes the material and makes personal the impersonal. In installations such as Clementine Suite (2006) and Enter Through the Giftshop (2011), or series such as Newspapers (2006) and The Red Series (1981), she explores the role that mundane objects play in forming our personal and collective histories while commenting on our consumer culture. Astman was one of the first to utilize the polaroid in her art, treating the medium more like a three-dimensional, malleable material than a flat, two-dimensional surface. She often photographs self-portraits that have been carefully choreographed, so that her image becomes removed from reality: a symbol of a constructed memory. Then, in a process of scratching into, enlarging, xerox-ing or printing over, the photograph is further removed from a document, becoming closer to an object itself.
Barbara Astman is currently featured in “Light My Fire: Some Propositions about Portraits and Photography” at the Art Gallery of Ontario, on until October 20, 2013.