Since her first involvement with the Griffin Museum about twenty years ago, Marky Kauffmann has shown a dedication and love for the art of photography. For instance, her work has shown at the Griffin in numerous Annual Juried Exhibitions as well in a solo show of her work “Landscapes and a Prayer.”
Also, Kauffmann has taught professional workshops and lectures for us in an effort the raise up the next generation of photographers. Over the years, her creative spirit has fluidity blended with our mission to broaden the appreciation and understanding of the impact of photographic art to the world.
As a part of our Griffin State of Mind series we interviewed this creatively contagious personality to better illustrate to you the spirit of the Griffin Museum of Photography.
Describe how you first connected with the Griffin. How long have you been part of the Griffin team and describe your role at the Griffin.
In 1996, I had an image in the Griffin Museum’s The Juried Show. That, I believe, was my first association with the museum. But when Paula Tognarelli joined the Griffin team as an intern in the early 2000’s, my interest in the museum grew.
Paula had been my student at the New England School of Photography and when she became executive director in 2006, I was thrilled!
In 2016, after I retired from teaching photography at the secondary school level, Paula asked me to join the museum’s Board of Directors as a Corporator. I have been on the Membership Committee since joining the board. In that capacity, I have used my connections at Boston area high schools and independent schools to create the Griffin Museum Secondary School Photography Teachers’ Alliance.
Every spring the Griffin hosts a luncheon for the Alliance, bringing together public and private school teachers to share ideas and forge bonds. And every winter, we sponsor an exhibit of their students’ work at Regis College’s Carney Gallery. In these ways, I have expanded membership to the museum.
How do you involve photography in your everyday? Can you describe one photograph that recently caught your eye?
I remain primarily an analog photographer and have a darkroom in my studio in Somerville. If I am not shooting film, I am printing in my darkroom, so making photographs is part of my daily life.
I recently went to see the exhibit, THE FENCE, brought to Winchester thanks to the vision and foresight of Paula Tognarelli. Many of the images on display caught my eye but “12 years old. My house. A family friend” and “13 years old. High school parking lot. My English teacher” by Rachel Wisniewski from her Memento portfolio held particular resonance.
What is one of your favorite exhibitions shown by the Griffin (see online archive here ).
There have been so many extraordinary exhibits put on by the Griffin that it is difficult to choose just one. But Nancy Grace Horton’s exhibit, Ms. Behavior, at the Griffin’s satellite gallery at Digital Silver Imaging in 2014, is a standout.
What is your favorite place to escape to in nature…mountains? beach? woods? and why?
In 1990, my husband and I bought 86 acres of land on Cape Breton Island off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada. We built a small cabin there, surrounded by ocean, mountains, and pine forests.
It is the place where I am most at home and most at peace. We have traveled there every summer for thirty years, and since retiring, we have also gone in the fall. But because of the surging cases of COVID-19 in the US, the Canadian border is closed until further notice. I find it utterly heartbreaking that I can’t go there this summer.
What is one book, song, or other visual obsession you have at the moment?
I recently read the novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong. The visual-ness of Vuong’s writing startled me. You get a glimpse of it just by reading the title of the book! And Sara Bareilles’ songs, especially her version of Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, got me through the spring.
What has been the most eye opening part of our time of physical distancing?
I found and find the act of social distancing to be excruciating. Not setting eyes on my son for several months was hell, quite frankly. So, what is “eye opening” metaphorically, is that this could happen! We can be put in the position of not being able to be with the ones we love.
And literally “eye opening?” It was one of the most beautiful springtimes I have ever witnessed in New England. With less to do, there was more to notice. And that’s what photographers do – we notice, as in, make note of, and call attention to, the world.
If you could be in a room with anyone to have a one on one conversation about anything, who would that person be and what would you talk about?
I would like to be in a room with Francesca Woodman, the young photographer who killed herself at the age of 22. When I read about her life and work, I find parallels within my own life that I would love to explore with her. And I would like to tell her that I am inspired by her creativity everyday.
I find parallels within my own life…”
Pivotal to Woodman’s career was her year spent in Rome, Italy, as part of the RISD’s Junior Year Abroad Honors Program. She was nineteen. I, too, spent my nineteenth year studying abroad – in Paris, France.
There, I studied with French photographer Claude LeMont and artist Tony Thompson. For me, the experience was also life altering, cementing my love for photography. I have always found Woodman’s self-portraiture to be extraordinarily inventive. She experimented wildly with clothing, props, and environments. I also try to be inventive with my photography, experimenting with darkroom techniques and chemistry.
In her essay, “On Being an Angel,” Gianni Romano writes that Woodman “utilized the female body to gain self knowledge.” In Fred Turner’s essay, “Body and Soul,” he states that Woodman “left behind images of an extraordinary inner life.” Her use of photography in these ways resonates with me, as I, too, explore themes around the female body and the female experience as a means of gaining self knowledge and an understanding of the life I have lived.
Why did she jump out of that window on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1981? I wish I could ask her. Her premature death and the loss it presents to the art world are incalculable.
See the work of Marky Kauffmann on her website.