Barbara Straussberg: Paper Revealed

Barbara Straussberg Artist Statement

Barbara Straussberg is an abstract painter and paper artist working in Philadelphia. Her process is material based and explores the intersection of ancient Korean paper art with contemporary abstract painting. Her studio practice encompasses painting, drawing, printmaking, paper sculpture and collage. Her approach to art making is intuitive and experimental – employing a variety of techniques such as dripping, rubbing, pouring, tearing, and mark making.

The act of  painting is what interests her as she engages with the materials to build the surface and break it down. She captures the feeling of being in nature by translating her physical presence in time and place into line and paint. Her tools can be as simple and direct as her fingers, plastic cups, and paper towels – layering, scraping and peeling away the surface. Straussberg’s active engagement with mixed media, along with her life-long passion for fiber arts and collage drew her to the ancient paper practice of Joomchi. Joomchi is a traditional Korean paper-manipulating technique where one works layers of handmade paper (Hanji) together while wet to form a single sheet of paper.

She rolls the paper with her hands in order to bind the paper fibers together and stretch the sheet to create lace-like structures. Straussberg takes a painterly approach to Joomchi – adding drips of acrylic paint and embedding hand-pulled monotypes and lithographic prints from photographs in layers of paper. Her focus is on the potential of the paper to reveal the printed image underneath and provide visual interest through texture, translucency and line.

Straussberg’s printed images range from abstract interpretations of trees and detritus found in nature to antique family photographs. After experiencing a significant loss, her work has taken on new meaning, reflecting themes of origin, aging, memory and reverence for her elders. The passage of time and subsequent shift in familial roles – as granddaughter, daughter, sister, and mother – parallel the subtle layering and exposed translucencies of her Joomchi paperwork. The unique qualities of the handmade papers reflect both strength and vulnerability, always able to change and transform through the push and pull of her hands.

Moving forward in her practice, Straussberg looks to break down the boundaries between past and present, paper and paint. Energized by a lively dialogue between art forms and mediums, her work embraces both a deep respect for traditional artistic techniques and an experimental approach to art making.

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