|Foster's 2004||Foster's 2001||
From the April 5, 1998
By LAURA POPE
Sunday News Arts Correspondent
Jane Kaufmann has been called the most famous underground artist
in New Hampshire, as well as a comedienne, storyteller and astute
political and social commentator.
Unlike most jesters, Kaufmann uses clay, and a two-stage firing process using pine needles, called raku, to make her statement on a variety of issues.
The source of inspiration for her varied works, from incised orbs and story towers, hilarious figurative pieces of the famous such as "Clark Gable in Selected Shorts" to portraits, finger puppets or wall pieces, comes from many directions. The Durham artist explains she makes "Whatever comes into my mind" and is influenced by newspapers tabloids, art magazines, books and her friends.
Current events-a visit from the Pope, a running commentary on Hillary Clinton's changing hairstyles or the promise by George Bush to "read my lips, no new taxes"-as much as personal life experience color the ceramic forms she crafts in her attic studio.
And just in case someone looking at one of her pieces misses the point she's trying to make, she often writes what the pieces are about directly on them.
This week, the Emporium Gallery in Dover hosts a Kaufmann show called "Old Directions, New Directions" through June 13. The collection of 100 pieces ought to satisfy those who have followed the artist's work through the years as well as those who wish to compare perspectives in early and current works.
For all her following and fame, however, a one-woman Kaufmann show is an uncommon event. Honored many times for her signature style, the English major who moved with her physics professor husband to Durham from New Mexico back in the 1960s carefully selects each exhibit and gallery to show her work. Many of the exhibits she participates in are linked to groups she works with such as the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen, the New Hampshire Art Association and the New Hampshire Potters Guild.
Gallery director Suzanne Pretty terms the Kaufmann show a significant exhibit of the artist's cross-section of styles, from the political, typically revealed in a portrait of a "State Senator Talking From Both Sides of His Mouth at the Same Time" to self portraits such as "Jane As a Mean Little Child" or "Ten Years Later, Same Legs" a recent piece which refers back to her 1980s portrait "Chair's Legs, Jane's Legs Too." Other categories in the display include Kaufmann's big figure series which stand 18-inches tall; a collection of little finger puppet characters; her Grandma series dating back to 1981; a group of 27 incised wall pieces, many adorned with arrows, roads and narrative; pie-in-the-sky wedges of pie with little scenes on them; a new series of postcards; and a small garden selection including the wall scene "The Year the Cosmos Grew So Tall."
Kaufmann holds a degree in English and explored art when she settled in New Hampshire with classes in sculpture, ceramics and printmaking at the university. Right away, her propensity for humor surfaced in clay. In one of her early assignments, she could not confine herself to making a functional and beautiful ceramic teapot, but fashioned the entire container into one of her characters. Also prevalent was her tendency to add narrative right on her pieces, a flourish whose effect is observed in the bursts of laughter and commentary of those viewing her pieces. Kaufmann has always attached more than reasonable price tags to her works, ranging from $20 for a finger puppet to $1,000 for her story towers.
"It's going to be an exciting show," predicts Pretty, whose multi-room gallery has grown into a popular and powerful viewing stage for a number of area artists, including Kaufmann. "I think she's extremely well-known and admired, even in conservative circles. She tackles lots of things, she's so potent because no one is spared in her work, not even herself."
Viewing hours at the Emporium Gallery are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and Sunday by appointment. For more information call 742-6834.