Barbara Strigel is a photographer, collage artist and bookmaker living and working in Vancouver, British Columbia. She was born in Philadelphia and studied photography and printmaking at the Museum School in Boston. For over 20 years, she was an art teacher in a public high school where she also advised the literary magazine and yearbook. Since her retirement in 2012, she has been actively establishing her fine art practice. Her digital collages, photographs and handmade books have been shown and collected in both Canada and the USA. In 2019, she was a finalist in Photo-Lucida's Critical Mass competition.
Barbara Strigel's work combines street photography and collaged abstraction. Themes of separation and connection are central to Strigel's work, which presents an "alone together" view of urban life. There is an expansive feeling in her constructed landscapes. Fragments of geography suggest a horizon line or imply architecture but the images are liminal spaces, thresholds between the internal and external.
Her process is a unique blend of digital and analogue. She creates torn paper collages and paintings which she scans into the computer, then digitally combines in layers with her photographs. The collage process blurs the boundaries between photography and painting and gives primacy to improvisation. Between the shifting rhythms of form and color in these prints, the original photographs remain as echoes.
We were neither Here nor There: When I first moved to the city after 35 years of living in the suburbs, I was surprised by how much I loved urban life. I have an introspective temperament, so it was curious to me that I would enjoy living in denser surroundings, but I found the 'together but apart' quality of public space reassuring. I'd stand at a bus stop and imagine that everyone beside me was also cold and fed up or that the elderly woman carrying her umbrella was a future version of myself. There's a certain gestalt in the balance of connection and separation that occurs in cities. Street photography, with its distanced contemplation of strangers, reinforces that idea of self-contained unity.
While the images in this series begin as street photographs, they are digitally reconfigured with scans of torn paper collage and paint. Like street photography, the collage process also involves open-ended exploration and a search for visual grace. It's an improvisation as well as an excavation, a way of uncovering significance in an ordinary gesture. The constructed landscapes blur boundaries, between real and unreal and between photography and abstraction. In the shifting rhythms of form and color, echoes of the photographs remain.
Release Date: April 16, 2021
Sidetracked, 2021 is from my We were neither Here nor There series and was created by layering scanned paper scraps and brushstrokes over street photographs of figures who were walking below a bridge. I like the way snow allows footprints and tire tracks to preserve movement and the tentative feeling it gives to a familiar space.