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, the steps she goes through to build up the surface and break it down. She captures the feeling of being in nature by transforming her physicality and the trees and rivers around her 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 open up 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 the 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.
Her printed images range from abstract interpretations of trees and detritus found in nature to antique family photographs. After experiencing a 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 her 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 making art.
Straussberg’s recent solo exhibitions include: Paper Revealed, Gravers Lane Gallery, Philadelphia (2022); URBN Headquarters, Naval Yard, Philadelphia (2020) and Allen’s Lane Art Center, Philadelphia (2020). Select group exhibitions include: Looks Good on Paper, National Juried Exhibition of Works on and of Paper, Pyramid Atlantic, MD; Une Exposition d’arts Obessionels de la Fibre, Gravers Lane Gallery, Philadelphia (2019); Contemporary Craft, Delaware Art Museum (2018) and Gawanghwamoon International Art Fair (GIAF), Seoul, Korea (2011). Her works are in many private, museum and corporate collections such as: Biggs Museum of American Art, SAP America, Fox Rothschild and Brandywine Realty Company (Lobby). She was awarded a Fellowship at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and Merit Grant Residency at the Vermont Studio Center. Straussberg received a Bachelor of Arts degree with Distinction in Art History from the University of Pennsylvania, and Certificate in painting and printmaking at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
1993 The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA Painting Major
1983 The University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA BA, Distinction in Art History
1979 - 1980 Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
Awards & Honors
2019 Artist Fellowship, The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Amherst, VA