Amy S. Kauffman takes the long view

Amy S. Kauffman
An origami rug that looks like a quilt, by Amy S. Kauffman

Origami hardly begins to describe what’s up in Amy S. Kauffman’s installation at the Painted Bride. The obsessive folding of tootsie roll wrappers is not about setting a world record for folding cranes.

Amy S. Kauffman
Kauffman’s braided rug made of folded Tootsie Roll wrappers

The installation, (from scratch), is Kauffman’s first solo show here, and it’s overdue. She has filled the two floors at the Bride with five works plus a documentary video of her process. Besides two origami rugs–one looks like an all-American braided rug and one looks like a bright, star-patterned quilt–Kauffman has covered the two-story wall at the bride top to bottom with oval picture frames, and she hung on lines quilted diaper-ish pieces that look like blanks to be folded into soft gift boxes. She also stamped postcards with dates from each day of her life and arranged them by year on shelves around the room.

Amy S. Kauffman
The two-story wall of empty white picture frames.

The funereal grid of picture ovals are missing the family portraits or ancestor portraits stretching back to time immemorial that ought to be there. The origami pieces talk to translating Japanese handiwork traditions to American ones. The materials in the braided rug are otherwise trash-bound, as are the wrappers from candies. I find something poignant here in the notion of heroic measures taken to rescue what’s (and maybe who’s) deemed disposable. Were the missing ancestors or family also deemed disposable? By whom? Can you make a new family or a new story for yourself by folding obsessively?

Amy S. Kauffman
The starry quilt is made of origami boat shapes

The theme of travel across cultures is also carried out in the origami boat shapes that comprise the star rug upstairs.

As for the quilted shapes, they have a magical uselessness that cannot be pinned down. I don’t know what they are, but they strike me as wishes unfulfilled. They are at once beautiful and not quite predictable, but, like the rugs, crafted and considered–but not meant for real daily life. They are laundry hung out for the neighbors to see, perhaps, sent out to suggest normality, ordinariness and extraordinariness all at once.

Amy S. Kauffman
The quilted shapes strung on lines look like blanks for gift boxes–sort of.

In some ways this is an exhibit about creating and merging the past and the present through the continuity of handiwork. It’s wish fulfillment. And it’s pretty swell.

Ultimately, it’s about time–the days of Amy’s life as marked on the postcards she has stacked by the years since her birth, the hours and the minutes she spends creating, and how that life translates into all our lives and the long line of lives that led to us. Almost each and every one of those past lives is lost, gone into a place where most lives disappear, without being recorded or rewritten as history.

By the way, we got an email from Amy, and some people mistook her rug for a rug, damaging it after we saw the exhibit. We’ll post it next.


amy s. kauffman, painted bride



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