strangely familiar

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Barbara Spohr

February 23 – September 7, 2008

Barbara Spohr, "Diptych, Bowl of Eggs Raw then Cooked" (1986). Type-C print. Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff Centre.

Of the 5,000 words we speak on average every day, 4,000 of these are said in our head or quietly to ourselves. This ongoing internal dialogue, examination, or soundtrack is an intuitive, uncensored, and honest response to the world around us. One is reminded of these silent conversations when looking at Barbara Spohr’s photographs, although she takes note of her surroundings not with furtive thoughts, but with exposed images.

Spohr contemplates the bits and pieces of life that are usually overlooked, but in doing so, she has created a sincere and concentrated visual archive of daily life. It is this intimacy and ability to reveal that makes her images strangely familiar rather than other worldly, giving the viewer an uneasy feeling of having experienced sitting here, or looking out through that window, or feeling this grass on our own legs. This is the power of her photographs; they create contradictions that are possible and visions of stories we all recognize. Barbara Spohr proves that she is one of the few who is able not only to look, but also to see.

Barbara Spohr

Born in 1955 in British Columbia, Barbara Spohr attended the Alberta College of Art in Calgary for formal training in drawing, painting and fiber art. She came to Banff Centre in 1974 for the drawing and painting summer session and the following year for weaving.She was also in Art Studio, where she was painting assistant from 1975-1977. 

She then pursued her interest in photography in the Visual Communications program, and was also a lab technician for the photography program until Crich Hall burned down in 1979. Along with other photo participants, she transferred to Apeiron Workshops in New York State and was hired in residence there until the end of 1980. From 1980-81 she was one of 10 photographers chosen for the Alberta Anniversary Photo project. 

Her photographic statements reveal that beauty is ever present in the mundane, and were filled with whimsy, pathos, frailty and the power of hope. Barbara died in March 1987 at the age of 32, after a long struggle with cancer.