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Art & Life with Casey Kauffmann

Today we’d like to introduce you to Casey Kauffmann.

Casey, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I’m from the San Fernando Valley where most of my family lives today. My father is a hippie, he’s from DC and marched with Martin Luther King in the 60’s. He went on to make Barbie commercials at Mattel for 30 years. My mother is a pageant queen model/actress from the Valley, she was Queen of Queens in the Hollywood parade. I’m the youngest of four intelligent, beautiful, strong-willed sisters. I am a complete blend of my parents with my proclivity for glitter, plastic, and inappropriate jokes from my mother and my intellectual curiosity and political outrage from my father. The environment I’ve described is clearly evident in the work I’m making.

I went to the Evergreen State College in Washington for art. I felt misunderstood there, everyone was painting trees and I was drawing Kim Kardashian crying. It was the oppositional surroundings of gentle tones, pristine nature, and all that silence that made me realize how important my home and the culture it produces is to my work. My interest in frivolity and superficiality was born in the woods of Olympia Washington.

When I came back to LA I couldn’t afford to make the drawings I was making at the time. They are extremely time consuming and expensive to make. The process used for making these collages exemplifies the concept of necessity being the mother of invention. I had tons of images I had collected through Tumblr I knew I would use one day. I was making collages in my scanner for a while until I discovered apps I could use to make collages on my phone. I started @uncannysfvalley in 2014 and have made hundreds of collages since. I am deeply addicted to my digital practice and the instant gratification I get from it. I’ve spent the last few years making this work and experimenting with different ways to physically manifest it.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
My current practice consists of drawings, digital collages, and installations which rely on a process of recontextualization. I don’t make anything new I rearrange existing images to create new meaning, all of my work is a process of collage. I have two distinct current bodies of work including my physical drawing practice and my digital social media practice. I make digital collages on my phone of found images and I upload them to my Instagram. The use of captions, hashtags, interaction with followers, and social media as a platform makes the process performative. My feed serves as an archive of my experience, it is always ecstatically melodramatic.

I also make drawings and paintings (mostly charcoal drawings) of women crying or fighting from reality television and art history. I collect images of women unapologetically expressing heightened often theatrical emotion. In my drawings, I identify and heighten the most dramatic aspects of each subject’s facial expression to elicit a visceral emotional response from the viewer. Both bodies of work are manifestations of similar aims.

Reality television and social media are platforms that exist as a result of our base desire for validation from one another; from our deep unrequited need to know others and to be known. Both parody the manifestation of that desire in its most exaggerated, uncanny form. They connote a sense of frivolity, but carry far deeper social significations than what is accessible on the surface. I create seemingly superficial images to soften the blow of personal truth and pain present in my work. Expressions of emotion and the need for validation are often associated with manipulation; I subvert this association and demand empathy from the viewer. I want people to believe women and that is mostly what drives my current work. Vulnerability is a strength not a weakness. I want to glorify honest unapologetic expressions of grief, anger, sexuality, subversive humor, and shameless validation seeking.

Do you think conditions are generally improving for artists? What more can cities and communities do to improve conditions for artists?
Artists’ need the same thing everyone else in this city needs and that is a better quality of life. Life has become harder for artists and everyone else. Los Angeles needs more affordable housing and a higher minimum wage. It’s hard to make art while working yourself to death just to stay alive and be in proximity of one another. Being an artist is a choice but struggling to survive in LA is not a choice for most people living here. I think artists have to consider how they themselves make other people’s lives harder in our city. The presence of artistic communities in the only areas we can afford to live and make work in result in a drastic shift of the communities that already exist in those areas. If there was more affordable housing and consideration to the sanctity of the communities that make up this city, all of us could better unite to fight the very real threats to our rights we are experiencing through this administration.

Artists in LA need to understand that just because you can only afford to live in a certain area that doesn’t mean you have to show work there. Innovative solutions to this issue are being made through artist run non-permanent curatorial projects such as Holiday and Gas Dot Gallery. If and when new spaces open up it is essential that they consider the impact on the communities they exist in and how they can involve and help their neighbors. I don’t know if I would rely on any extension of the government to improve the lives of artists but there are small things we can all do to support one another and the city we love.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
The first thing people should do is follow me on Instagram @uncannysfvalley. Don’t do it for me, do it for you, I’m sure you’ll like it. Beyond that come to some of my upcoming shows, I’ll announce them on my Instagram. Buy a print? Buy a drawing? That would be cool. I am going to USC for my masters in the Fall so please follow my progress and happenings there. Comment on my Instagram and tell me I’m doing great, compliments are like food to me. I’m currently in a traveling exhibition called American Fine Arts you can follow them at @bbq.afa on Instagram and hopefully catch one of their shows. I also have some limited edition prints available through Grapefruit Magazine, you can find them here

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Nicolas Shake
Molly Tierney
Jeff Mclane

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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