From Eliza French. Follow her on Twitter @elizaenbref; email her at eliza[AT]borderstan.com.
After taking a 20-year hiatus from her work as an artist, Sally Kauffman is reviving her career and finding camaraderie among the Mid City Artists in her studio adjacent to the Harmon Art Lab. Photography has heavily influenced her work, and recently she has drawn inspiration from her day job as a digital user experience designer.
She sat down last week to answer our questions about living and working as an artist and Borderstan and about how and where she finds inspiration for her current works.
Borderstan: How long have you lived/worked in the Borderstan area (Dupont/Logan/U Street) and how did you come to live here?
Kauffman: I moved to the area a couple of years ago, seeking a more urban lifestyle that was culturally rich and not dependent on a car.
Borderstan: How have you or your art been inspired by the Borderstan area? And what are your favorite places to go in the Borderstan area?
Kauffman: The sense of community and the friends I have made in the past couple of years make me very happy. I love watching the U Street/14th Street area change, but I worry that the very culture I was seeking will be driven out. I was very sad to see Utopia close, my husband and I loved stopping by and having a drink and listening to fabulous jazz.
Borderstan: How did you first get interested in the interplay between art and photography? How has this influenced your artistic style and major works?
Kauffman: I started photographing friends at my dinner table as a source of content for my paintings, using the images to capture the experience. The viewfinder is a great compositional tool, it allows you to isolate your subject and alter the spatial relationship between them. In my “Intimate Feasts” series, the objects on the table became the focus. The scale of the objects in the foreground dwarfed the figures in the background.
Borderstan: What have been your greatest sources of inspiration to date?
Kauffman: A trip to Oaxaca, touring local galleries and artist’s studios, inspired me to start painting after a 20-year hiatus. The rich imagery and culture have produced a group of contemporary painters creating powerful work. I returned and signed up for a class at the Corcoran with Judy Southerland. Judy was a great mentor, focusing me on what matters to me, drawing from personal experience. She introduced me to painters that I admire and share the same influences. I find [both] Cecily Brown’s rich, luscious paint and bad girl content, and Jenny Saville’s portrayal of flesh, beautiful and morbid at the same time… . Of course I saw the [Museum of Modern Art’s] de Kooning exhibit in New York and renewed my enthusiasm for his work.
Borderstan: Do you experiment with other types of art (drawing, sculpture, music, dance, etc.)?
Kauffman: Yes, that 20-year gap was spent exploring technology and interactive media, and [I’m] ready to bring the technology into my art practice. I’m taking the intro classes in Processing, a programming language designed for artists, and how to use the Arduino, a board that senses input such as sound, movement and light at Artisphere this month. I hope to be creating interactive digital installations in the near future.
Borderstan: What are your other interests and hobbies outside of art?
Kauffman: I travel with my husband and friends, exploring local culture, art, food and wine. I work in product development as a user experience designer.
Borderstan: Where can we see your work at local exhibits, galleries, restaurants, or homes?
Kauffman: I am exhibiting at Artomatic this year, Friday, May 18th to Sunday, June 24th, and you can find me on the 11th floor. I will be in my studio at 1716 14th Street on Saturday, May 19th for Mid City Artists Open Studios. The 1716 studios are planning some parties and open houses as well.