Jessica M. Kaufman & Michael Starkman

MAIN GALLERY: 12.10.08 - 1.10.09

Photography by Jessica M. Kaufman
No one bears witness for the witness --Paul Celan

Panopticon – I approached this series as I have all others: with the intention to investigate, or call attention to, how identity shifts and changes when catalyzed by experience, and more dramatically, trauma. For this project, I again was drawn to the landscape as muse, but uncharacteristically chose one loaded with meaning, burdened with a history so cumbersome that I initially was afraid to pursue it.

The title of this series, Panopticon, refers to an 18th century circular prison model that allows for secret surveillance of all prisoner activity through natural illumination. The subject matter is the grounds of Nazi concentration camps. Far from being documentary in nature, these photographs are decontextualized excerpts through which I sought to dispose of most recognizable clues to the specific places, and focus on the surrounding, and surviving, environments in order to recast them as sites for new meaning. The resulting images, mutated through a technical process that relies on decay as an operative force, do suggest trauma, but don’t require a reaction that encompasses a response to iconic horror. Instead, I make this work in the hope of inspiring a dialogue between the viewer and imagery that fuses indeterminate disturbance with transcendent beauty.

Photography by Michael Starkman

Photography by Michael Starkman

Where Nepenthe Flows – For the past several years, integrating my art making and spirituality has been my deeply held quest. I long to use my camera as a divining rod that can help lead me toward ecstatic experience.

Relinquishing control at the time of capture, I trust the viewfinder to point me toward beauty, allowing the intervention of camera and film to co-create the negatives. The final form is a gift, discovered rather than pre-visualized, the result of a creative process sustained through long collaboration with happenstance, luck – or spirit – rather than confined to a single decisive moment.

The photographs from the series Where Nepenthe Flows began during the year following my mother’s death. For me, they are about opening myself to the darkness at the edge of beauty, mourning, slow healing, and the awe of staring at the Veil.

[Nepenthe: in Greek mythology, a drink of the Gods that banished grief and sorrow]

Jessica M. Kaufman is a nationally exhibited artist who received an MFA from Massachusetts College of Art, and a BA from Yale University. Her work is included in the collection of the Jewish Museum in NY, and will be exhibited at RayKo Photo Center in San Francisco in December 2008, and at Susan Eley Fine Art in New York City in January 2009. Kaufman is a 2008 recipient of the NYSCA Individual Artist TIER Award and a NYC Department of Cultural Affairs grant for her latest project, Seep, both administered through the Brooklyn Arts Council. Her photographs have recently been published in the book Flash Forward 2007: Emerging Photographers from Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States; and she is a winner of The National Graduate Seminar Fellowship from The Photography Institute at Columbia University. She currently lives and works in New York City.

Michael Starkman started making photographs after training in drawing and printmaking. His work is in public collections in the United States and Europe, including the Harry Ransom Center for the Humanities in Austin, Texas, and the Hollar Gallery in Prague. He has shown in solo and group exhibitions, including a solo exhibition at the Foto and Photo Festival in Cesano Maderno, Italy in 2006. He lives in San Francisco.