Barbara Astman

Dancing with Che, 2003


Dancing with Che evolved from Barbara Astman’s first visit to Havana, where images of revolutionary leader Che Guevara appear in public art, on monuments, on souvenirs, so many decades after his death. Astman is interested in the proliferation of this image, and its meaning, both in terms of this historical figure viewed as a pop culture icon.


Astman explores the complexity of experiencing a foreign culture, while being only too acutely aware of existing outside of that culture, the rhythms and sounds of the street, the sensuousness and spirit of the people. It is in this sense of exploration that Astman has used her own body to animate the image of Che, to attempt to re-create what she experienced in Cuba.

There are thirty-one murals in the series, which create a rhythm of movement when viewed sequentially. These polaroid works, the sketches for the larger works, are the artist thinking out loud. They reference her earlier self-portrait work stemming from the late 1970s.


BARBARA ASTMAN creates photographic series that target the personal world through recollection or revelation. Her early work responds to contemporary issues by incorporating humor and stereotype. Her oversize photographs from the early 1980s are striking in their bold, unusual use of color and scale.


Throughout her career, Astman pioneered the artistic use of both analogue and digital reproduction techniques. She is among the first to discover and explore the technological practices and concepts that are key signifiers in contemporary art.


Born in Rochester NY, Astman studied at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the late 1960s when multimedia practices were the hotbed for artistic innovation. Astman came to Canada in 1970 during the wave of draft dodgers from the Vietnam War. Since the mid 1970s she has been a professor at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto.