Barbara Diener: Phantom Power
Everybody has that one ghost story, that one strange occurrence in their life that they cannot explain, that hand-me-down mess of a lore that has been passed down through the family for decades. Barbara Diener is right here with us, embracing her interests and seeking to create more stories of her own. Her body of work Phantom Power explores spirit photography in the modern age, when things are less alchemic, sans the mirrors and silvers of older photo practices. With new ghost hunting technologies in accessible reaches, Barbara becomes a self-proclaimed amateur ghost hunter while contemplating how the long dead can continue to imprint the physical world.
Born in 1982 in Germany Barbara Diener received her Bachelor of Fine Art in photography from the California College of the Arts and Masters in Fine Art in Photography from Columbia College Chicago.
Her work has been exhibited at Alibi Fine Art, Chicago, IL, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IL, Hyde Park Art Center, Hyde Park, IL, David Weinberg Gallery, Chicago, IL, New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, NM, Griffin Museum of Photography, Winchester, MA, Invisible Dog Gallery, Brooklyn, NY, Lilllstreet Art Center, Chicago, IL, Riverside Art Center, Chicago, IL. Pingyao Photo Festival, China, The Arcade, Chicago, IL, Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, Philadelphia, PA, Darkroom Gallery, Essex Junction, VT and Project Basho, Philadelphia, PA among others. Diener’s photographs are part of several private and institutional collections including the New Mexico Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Photography.
In 2013 Diener was selected to participate in two highly ambitious and competitive artist residency programs, the Fields Project in Oregon, IL and ACRE in Steuben, WI, and she was HATCH Projects 2015-2016 resident through the Chicago Artist Coaltition.
Diener is a winner of Flash Forward 2013, the recipient of a Follett Fellowship at Columbia College Chicago and was awarded the Albert P. Weisman Award in 2012 and 2013. In addition Diener received an Individual Artist Grant from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Events in 2015. She is the Collection Manager in the Department of Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago and teaches photography at Oakton Community College and at the School of the Art Institute.
In my previous body of work, Sehnsucht, I photographed in small, rural towns that triggered childhood memories. During that process I met and became fascinated with a woman named Kathy. She owns the diner in her town and lives on her husband’s family farm, which is haunted by his ancestors. Her belief in the spectral sparked my own interest in the unexplained and ties back to my ongoing curiosity about religion, spirituality and the human desire to believe that something else happens after we die and that a part of us-the spirit or soul-continues on.
The camera is a crucial tool for most paranormal investigators, so it was a natural step for me to become an amateur ghost hunter myself. Photography has been linked to the spirit world since the 1860s with the popularity of spirit photography and post-mortem portraits. Since its invention photography has lent a sense of immortality to its subjects. In recent years the paranormal has received amplified media attention through numerous ‘reality’ television programs that sensationalize any phenomena for the camera. On the contrary my approach is self-reflective and curious. To make the resulting images I have adopted both traditional and contemporary methods of capturing the invisible, as well as employed my own interpretation of the magical and mystical.
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