Filed under
Barbara Cole, Canadian (B. 1953)
Barbara Cole - Sasha and Painted Screen
Barbara Cole
Sasha and Painted Screen, Shadow Dancing Series
Archival Pigment Photograph
30 x 24 inches

Signed, titled, dated, and editioned 1/10 on certificate of authenticity affixed to verso. Color image front mounted to plexiglass.

View Barbara Cole - Sasha and Painted Screen photograph
View Barbara Cole - Passing Time, Shadow Dancing Series photograph
View Barbara Cole - Future Tense, Shadow Dancing Series photograph
View Barbara Cole - Past and Present, Shadow Dancing Series photograph

Barbara Cole comments, “Over the past thirty years, I have been operating as a painter but employing traditional photographic tools.” Indeed, Cole’s photography consciously parallels itself to painting; resembling the fluidity of painterly brush strokes, her camera and means of production work as the agents that capture tonal range and figurative abstraction. Similar in nature to a painter’s treatment of their medium, Cole’s methodology transforms figures by its demand for skilled craftsmanship and constructed narrative to achieve the artist’s passionate interpretation of the form under light and shadow.

Cole began her career as a model and later worked as a Fashion writer; it was during fashion shoots, that photographers would suggest Cole look through their lens and ask for her opinion, prompting Cole’s interest in photography. In her artwork, Barbara Cole embarks on a variety of series that explore her painterly and tactile relationship to photography. Inspired by an episode in her life where much of her time was spent swimming, the element of water took a central role in her early work. Through shooting underwater, Cole created the aesthetic of malleable fluidity, beginning to use the element as another lens between the camera and the subject, re-envisioning space while elevating a degree of fantasy to her work.

Cole creates the series Shadow Dancing, after perfecting the craft of the “wet-collodion tintype.” The wet-collodion technique is a photographic negative process, in which light-sensitive silver compounds are held in a collodion coating on a glass support, a prevalent trend in photography of the late 19th century.

“The women in these images are archetypal figures reflecting the ability of the human spirit to synthesize experience and triumph over adversity. They are testaments to the power of bravely embracing one’s shadow.”

For Shadow Dancing, Cole uses a Deardorff box camera; she sees her image upside down under a black cloth on a glass plate. She photographs this glass plate and prints it at a lower opacity printed on a transparent material, uniting the two slightly different images into a final “boxed” artwork.
Cole physically separates these two overlapping images through space, creating a void between them and generating the illusion of a ghost image. That slight, mysterious gap made by the images creates a dreamlike, three-dimensional space. Cole’s use of modeling, of painted sets, and the fragmented figure give her aesthetic a classic, romantic way of image making. Her enigmatic “boxes” create a nostalgic feeling, enhancing their handcrafted character and resembling Joseph Cornell’s assemblages although through beautiful tonal renditions, ultimately staging beauty and mystery.

Barbara Cole's artwork is extensively collected by both public and private institutions and has been exhibited worldwide in such venues as the Canadian embassies in Washington, D.C. and Tokyo, Japan. Throughout her career, Cole has worked internationally on commercial projects and large-scale art commissions including installations for the Breast Cancer Centre in Toronto’s Princess Margaret Hospital and Trump Hollywood, Florida. She has won prestigious awards such as the Grand Prize at the Festival International de la Photographie de Mode in Cannes and received acclaim at the International Photography Awards in New York.