Barbara Astman, Red series, 1981


The Red series represents a visual breakthrough on several levels: symbology, content and form. In this iconic series, Astman is again posed frontally. This time she is amidst a carefully balanced composition of household objects, each has been spray-painted red. As the background objects suspend midair, they assume something more than their original mundane functionality.


Barbara composes her series using a saturated quality of red, imbuing her objects with a variety of connotations ranging from playful to vaguely threatening. Using a fluorescent light, her skin acts as a cool surface. The result creates an unusual resonance that transforms the photographic medium into something that recalls a painting.


The use of text has been eliminated from these ektacolour murals. Without words one cannot be certain of their own individual interpretations of the piece. Nevertheless, the Red series evoked a strong response. Some viewers felt that the work had feminist overtones, while others simply enjoyed the graphics, and associations made with the colour red. 

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.