Artist and Activist
When Jane Kaufmann took a pottery class at UNH in the mid-’60s, she had no idea where it would lead her. “It looked like a good way to keep busy at home while I raised my children,” Kaufmann says. Today the Durham resident is a ceramic sculptor of note, exhibiting and selling her work through the League of N.H. Craftsmen, the N.H. Art Association and Exeter Fine Crafts. Her raku-fired sculptures – story towers, figures, wall pieces, orbs and a bed series – are at first glance simply whimsical, but look further and you see that many have serious intent. Her work is her way of stating her strong beliefs about peace and social justice – and making it go down easy with a dose of humor.
You’ve said that artists can help save the world. How? I think I notice small things that most people don’t see. If I am not afraid, have a point and can present it in a funny way, then I have a chance of opening up someone’s mind.
What is the role of humor in your work? I think if you are talking about something serious and you begin to pontificate – it turns people off. Joking about things makes it easier for people to look at issues in a new way. It relaxes the viewer.
What issues do you care most about? Peace and social justice issues, things that don’t seem fair. The death penalty in N.H. (you don’t teach people not to kill by killing people), that we are considering building more nuclear power plants in the United States when we don’t know what to do with the waste, war, prejudice against immigrants – you name it, I worry about it.
How has your Quaker faith influenced your work? At Quaker meeting people stand up and speak out of the silence. That teaches you to speak out. If you can do it at a Quaker meeting, you can do it at a town meeting or in your art.
You were once jailed for a peaceful protest … This just follows standing up for what you believe in. And going to jail is interesting. You find out who’s in there and how the place works. Now that’s something they don’t teach you in college.
You seem to take on both sides of the political aisle. I make fun of all politicians because it’s so easy to do and they are so pompous and rich.
You’ve said that “to me things are simple and clear.” How do you get that clarity? Clarity for me comes from living simply, working hard, and being fair and kind.
Many of your sculptures have stories written on them. Why? Telling a story on a sculpture is my way of being very clear. My work means something and I am not taking the chance that the viewer won’t get it.