This body of work portrays symbiotic relationships between people, exploring reciprocity and kindness. The figures mirror each other’s movements, creating reflections and repetition of familiar actions. Everyday experiences like fixing a neighbor’s sink or watching a friend get ready for a night out can be a revelation. These familiar actions convey an inherent understanding between loved ones.
Many of these works explore the sincerity in performance during social gatherings. The mythologized party is a way to navigate the complexity of American adolescence, while road trips and tarot readings serve as tools to reflect on that period of life. Many of the works are set at night, with lighting choices that reference film and theater. Saturated color conveys melodrama and tension, revealing the emotional urgency of the content. Many of the painted figures return the gaze of the audience, as if they are waiting to have their photo taken. This creates the illusion that the audience could step into the work and be a part of the events depicted on the canvas.
Eli Kauffman (they/them) is from Salt Lake City, Utah. They hold a BFA in Painting from Rhode Island School of Design and are a former Maharam Fellow with Wasatch Community Gardens. Through figurative painting, printmaking, drawing, and textiles they explore how people care for one another through celebrations and while experiencing disaster.
Kauffman works from a combination of photos and diegetic film stills to create low-fantasy scenes. Through a collection of reference images, Kauffman amplifies the disparity between high-brow and low-brow imagery. Their work is semi-autobiographical, and references coming of age TV shows and dialogues surrounding contemporary figure painting.