Research: Barbara Astman

23 Feb

1. What tools does Astman use to create her art?

In a lot of her art work she uses her own body as the subject and the object, and she uses a Polaroid camera to shoot her photos.

2. What are some of the ideas behind works such as “Visual Narratives” of 1978 and the “Red Series” of 1981?

In her works “Visual Narratives” and the “Red Series”, “beauty” was the main focus her ideas. “Visual Narratives” displayed beauty through the unique combination of images and words, and in the “Red Series”, the photos have a mysterious aura because of her use of colours and objects (i.e, telephone, coffee mug, etc). Her skin is also abnormally pale, which creates a strong contrast with the other colours.

3. What were the events that lead her to take up photography?

Before Astman found her interest in photography, she was in a silversmith and design program at the Rochester School of Technology in the late 1960s when she came to Canada. She took part of the student protests because of the Vietnam War. Then she was accepted to the sculpture department at the Ontario College of Art and Design.

4. Why did she choose photography as the media to express herself?

Astman found her interest in photography when she used her friend’s camera to document earthworks made from aluminum. She experimented with the camera by taking photos of herself, using half of the film. She then realized that photography was right for her.

5. What was the story she was trying to communicate in her very early work?

In her very early work, she tried to create her own persona and lead herself out of her own culture by becoming someone else (in her belief). She thought that you can become anyone by dressing up and covering up.

6. In her series “Dancing with Che” what ideas was she thinking of when creating it?

Che was everywhere; on mugs, t-shirts, and keychains. Because Astman thought Che as a pop-culture icon, she adds images of Che into her work, by blurring, distorting and obscuring his face, following the movements of her body. The photos look animated because the images become a single film.

7. a) Images Astman shot in Paris during a particularly emotional time of her life in 1982 were used later in scenes from a Movie for One”. When did she resurrect the images and how did she transform them?

When she took the pictures at first she couldn’t deal with them, so she put them away. She took them out when she was finally able to confront them in order to use them for the scenes. She took the original photos and rephotographed them by using a Polaroid camera. She took close-up pictures, introduced colour through the Polaroid camera process, and then layered them.

7. b) What was Astman’s objective when she transformed them?

She transformed the photos because her objective was to get over the emotial state she was in. The original black and white photos were too emotional for her.

8. It can be said that Astman’s work is “about the difficulty of recongnizing what is beautiful and how it operates”.  Explain her artistic objectives and personal experiences which influenced her concepts.

Astman’s art works used to work against “beauty” in the past, but now she thinks that beauty is a loaded word in the world of art. She believes that it can work in a conjunction with whatever someone’s conceptual issues are. She reminds herself that things are cyclical, and in order to do that she continues to create artwork.

9. What unexpected element does she add to her narratives?

She says that she doesn’t appreciate literal narrative or the structure of sequencing images, but she certainly finds beauty in chaos, confusion, and complexity.


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