Barbara Astman

Emergence, 1998


Emergence, by Barbara Astman, commemorates the 100th anniversary of the admittance of women into the legal profession in Canada.  The work consists of collages which have been scanned and printed onto canvas.  It combines archival images of these early pioneers with photos of Osgoode Hall Law School.  Emergence grew out of a fascination Astman had with a specific photograph, labeled "Women's Law Association of Ontario, December 14th 1946," showing a dinner party of one of the first graduating classes.  Fragments of this photograph are interspersed with architectural shots of the Osgoode Hall interior.  The collaged women, surrounded by archways, cornices, and chandeliers, seem to be emerging from what was, for a long time, a prohibited space.  The rectilinear framing of the pillars reinforces the rigidity of the newly conquered social sphere - a space which Astman describes as masculine, since all of the portraits in the main hall are of men, except the Queen.  Emergence comments on and documents an aspect of our collective history by creating contemporary "portraits" of women who were among the first to graduate, opening the door to one of our most important institutions for subsequent generations.  


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.