10 Artists You Didn’t Know Were Canadian
Pivoting between counter-culture politic and consumer-culture critique, Barbara Astman issues a challenging voice on concerns related to media, feminism, and framing that have, in turn, helped advance an all-important generation of contemporary art. Among Astman’s most enduring artistic occupations is her employment and elevation of photography, a medium that underwent a dramatic shift in perception and assignment in the early 1980s and became more widely accepted within the visual arts. Evoking at turns humor and urgency, Astman’s adroit use of archetypal form, her consistent self-reflexivity, and her dexterous adoption of new technologies has helped establish her as a leading female artist pursuing vulnerable self- and societal analyses through a still-evolving frame.
Born in Rochester, New York, Barbara Astman arrived in Canada in 1970, and three years later, graduated from Ontario College of Art, where she has taught since 1975.
—Courtesy of Waddington's
Signature: Signed, numbered 1/3, #8 and dated /97
Private Collection, Texas
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, which she imbues with memories and histories in an attempt to “dematerialize” her materials and make 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 artists to use 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 abstracted, a symbol of a constructed memory. Then, in a process of scratching into, enlarging, xerox-ing or printing over, she manipulates the photograph, emphasizing its quality as an object even further.
Canadian, b. 1950, Rochester, New York, based in Toronto, Canada