Somerville artist Ben Kauffman’s unique, layered mixed-media artwork will be showing at Christopher’s Restaurant and Bar until February 22.
Kauffman uses his art to create stories out of old, reclaimed objects, transforming industrial leftovers into artistic narratives.
“You would find me out in back of an industrial office space, combing the grounds by the dumpster, instead of at a Michaels craft supply store,” Kauffman said. “[I try to create] an aesthetic of worn, used or recycled things as opposed to bright, shiny, new pieces.”
Kauffman, who has been a mixed-media artist for 25 years, said his work is best described as industrial collages or assemblages. On any given piece, he textures and layers his art to evoke a rich dialogue between multiple components, each having its own history within the piece.
Preferring a backdrop of wood, Kauffman utilizes bits of painted canvas, fabrics, paint, metal and other recycled materials in his art. While the components themselves may seem random, Kauffman tries to connect with viewers and create a story they can feel, if not entirely comprehend.
“[Viewers] might not know why it works, and honestly, I don’t always know why it works,” Kauffman said. “I shoot for it to work in a way that’s compositionally balanced that brings some emotional reaction.”
Kauffman said that art was always an important aspect of his life, and that he has expressed it through multiple avenues. Originally from Philadelphia, Kauffman received an undergraduate degree in studio art from Skidmore College, and later his MFA in creative writing at Emerson College. He has also reported on arts and entertainment and taught writing and literature.
Now, the manager of a documentation group for a software company, Kauffman makes time for his art on nights and weekends. He said that art is his creative outlet, as well as his necessary form of expression.
“I come home and just hang out with the family, and then [I get to] do work at night that’s a little closer to my heart and that has nothing to do with my day job, so it’s refreshing,” Kauffman said. His wife, Abby Luthin, and three children are very supportive of his art. Two of the pieces displayed at Christopher’s were completed in collaboration with his two young daughters.
Kauffman said that he enjoys mixed-media art because the reward is both palpable and immediate. After practicing art for 25 years, he is excited that others appreciate and enjoy his work. He said that he thinks the key to his success is that he keeps working diligently and allowing his small victories to lead to bigger success as an artist.
“More often the reality is that people who work hard over a long period of time finally find some amount of success,” Kauffman said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time and I just keep plugging away.”
In addition to Christopher’s, Kauffman has also had showings at Diesel Café in Somerville, Cambridge Commons, Cafenation and Athan’s Bakery/Café in Brighton. Kauffman said he likes the setting at Christopher’s, and in terms of how it looks on the walls, the show is successful and worth seeing.
“I like the way the art works within the space,” Kauffman said. “They’ve got the fireplace, the exposed brick . . . It’s a very warm setting, especially during the winter.” He laughed, before adding, “They’ve got good food, good beers on tap and hopefully good art on the walls.”
Kauffman’s art will be displayed at Christopher’s until February 22. For questions regarding showing and purchasing his work, Kauffman can be reached directly through his website.