Likely Stories Series So Far
Likely Stories is an in-progress ironically titled archival pigment print series reflecting a personal and cultural desire for transcendent experiences through metaphoric objects in distant skies. At first glance, the images are humorous and joyful, but there are also underlying significant issues in the work, such as aspiration in the face of the long shot, since the narrative scenarios are not feasible, let alone “likely,” yet appear to be triumphantly possible. The work also refers to potentially imperiled landscapes, both terrestrial and extra-terrestrial, expressing the urgency of climate change, which has sparked recent cultural consideration of the colonization of other planets.
The context for this series is the sky, with its history of adventure and achievement, in which the metaphoric objects, like balloons, dodge balls, marbles, paper planes, and various toys float or are propelled into the air. Some are symbolic of various phenomena or entities, like balloons as metaphors for breathing, jacks as stars, or whiffle balls as shocked or frightened faces. The toys are manifestations of childhood dreams, when imagination makes all things seem possible. In some images, marbles are macroscopic stand-ins for planets or satellites and in others they are micro scale, stand-ins for atoms forming chemical structures like a mouse head water molecule (a component necessary for life in the universe), or an ethanol molecule dog. The presence of these often-comical airborne forms is deadpan and absurd relative to the grandeur of the lofty extraterrestrial contexts, their juxtapositions both ridiculous and sublime.
This work also suggests dichotomies between the near and the far, optimism and fear, aging or mortality in the context of infinity, a search for meaning vs. the urge to escape from reality, the human touch in a high tech world, and our daily intimate lives on earth juxtaposed with unfathomably distant places. In full throttle can-do mode, the Likely Stories images are surrogate selfies, parodies of and homages to the grandeur of distant skies, in which viewers, through the objects, ascend to improbable, transcendent heights, wryly reflective of the humor and pathos of the desire for human achievement and both ordinary and extraordinary experience.
Some critical responses to the Likely Stories series so far:
"'Think of them more as these aesthetic researchers pushing out into new areas that haven’t been explored yet, like nuclear physicists or biologists. I like to see somebody willing to understand the tradition, and then kind of degrade it, somehow rough it up or do the wrong thing with that technique – that’s what leads to interesting discoveries.' Darling likes artists who 'allow themselves to be taken into these unfamiliar areas and justify weirdness and even silliness, kookiness.' So Darling chose Barbara Noah’s print of a child’s balloon in orbit. 'I just love the obvious ridiculousness of this image. Everybody knows this is an impossibility, but it’s done so believably, and we give so much credence to hyper-real photographic imagery, that it opens up a crack of doubt and wonder in one’s consciousness. What if?'" – Michael Darling, quoted in “The Curator’s Eye,” City Arts
"Striking a more cosmic and comic note, Seattle artist Barbara Noah takes celestial snapshots borrowed from NASA, the Hubble telescope and other space-exploring outfits and puts her own whimsical twist on them. In "Gloria," the Helix nebula serves as backdrop to a winged, porcelain cherub who's both pure kitsch and pure exuberance. "You Better Watch Out" floats a vivid Santa cap over a satellite photograph of Honolulu, while in other Noah fantasies, paper airplanes, balloon animals and plastic toys cavort their way through the heavens. Fun stuff, pulled off with smooth computer wizardry." – Michael Upchurch, The Seattle Times
"Her images are immediately accessible and appealing, equal parts high tech (NASA satellite imagery) and low-brow (rubber toys and silly hats), merged with impeccable digital technique…. Noah skillfully contrasts the overwhelming space and colossal scale of her borrowed astronomical imagery with the childish, everyday, and diminutive objects that have somehow died and gone to heaven, an uplifting narrative indeed." – Gary Faigin, KUOW
"Her works transcend the mere "oh-wow" of technological seduction. This medium is her servant, a means to an end....Events from youth - moon landings, political spectacles, contemporary pop culture - grow forward with us in time like collective vines through the subconscious, sprouting our conscious manifestations. We find this phenomenon in Noah's work - although her art necessitates metaphors of a more cosmic nature.... I long to install one of Noah's realized visions in my house where...it shall preside over the creation of my own culturally blessed dreams." Molly Norrics, Art Access.
Please see my website for more images and for the image credits for the pieces in the showcase slide show. The credits are in the Image Credits section of the site: www.barbaranoah.com
Please also see my AIM/Hatchfund project page for the Likely Stories series.
I am a mixed-media artist who has created work in paint, print art, photography, collage, drawing, sculpture, digital prints, and public art. I have exhibited at the Seattle Art Museum, the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The New Museum of Contemporary Art and P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in New York, the City Museum in Nakhodka, Russia, the Shenzhen Art Institute Gallery in China, and the Biennial Exhibition of La Jeune Gravure Contemporaine-Paris in France. My work has been published in ARTnews and Art in America. I am featured in the book The Painter Speaks: Artists Discuss Their Experiences and Careers, published by the Research Center for Arts and Culture, Columbia University. I am represented in collections at the Seattle Art Museum, the UCLA Grunewald Print Collection, Microsoft Corporation, and the Centrum Foundation, as well as other public and private collections. I am also the recipient of the Artist Trust THA Award for achievement in the arts and a Pollock/Krasner Grant. The panel for the award wrote about my work: “The panel felt that Barbara Noah was an artist who had, throughout her years of creating work, maintained a consistent artistic voice – a voice that was not just universal, but also fresh and current. The panel admired her ability to adapt to technologies, while flawlessly maintain a personal vision, wit, and proficiency.”