Harrison Public Library presents “Uncanny,” by Susan Kaufman

Exhibition is on display March 31, 2024 to May 3, 2024.
Gallery is open to the public during regular library hours.
You are invited to attend an open reception on Saturday, April 13 from 2 – 4 PM at the library.

Artist’s Statement:

The uncanny is at once absolutely familiar and yet strangely unsettling. In our own world where everything is increasingly programmed and automated, the uncanny interrupts our assumptions. For example, butterflies escape their pins and fly away from the cabinet that holds them; a young woman puts down her book of ghost stories oblivious to the ghost observing her. The uncanny, more than anything, is the feeling we get when something familiar happens in a strange context, or conversely, when something strange happens in a familiar context. It is the feeling one gets on seeing new occupants in a childhood home; the uncanny disturbs the borders of familiar things.

The word uncanny has its origins in 16th century Scotland and its history can be traced through the literature of ghost stories. Through the 18th and 19th centuries, the idea moved from the countryside into the city – from Henry James’ terrifying tale ‘The Turn of the Screw’ to Shirley Jackson’s urban nightmare ‘Paranoia’. Today we use the term uncanny valley when describing our unease in differentiating human from computer.

In my work I use familiar seeming images and place them in slightly strange settings. The use of old photographs is deliberate as I am relying on our belief that photographs do not lie. Cinematographers understand that images in black and white convey truthfulness.

My pictures capture ambiguity, such as two sets of twins meeting on a bridge in ‘Doppelganger, Doppelganger’; misinterpretation, as seen in ’Playtime with Nanny’; or even something perfectly reasonable like ‘Babysitting Granny’ that isn’t really reasonable at all.

The uncanny is there waiting to be noticed.

About the Artist:

When my children grew up and we stopped reading pop-up books together, I started taking apart the books that I owned to see how they worked.  Little by little, I taught myself the basics of the mechanisms and eventually got to the point where I could teach classes in Pop-up card making.  From there, I discovered paper engineering. I became fascinated by all the things a simple piece of paper could do.  The surfaces of my work are layered and often the paper is torn, cut or folded allowing me to create illusions of depth.  The staircase in “We have always Lived Here” allows my paper characters to climb.

My work often looks like illustrations for stories that you might almost remember or that haven’t yet been written. My literary influences are ghost stories and more specifically the ghost stories of Edith Wharton who describes chilly mansions and barely there encounters with things uncanny.  I often nod my head in agreement with the weird events described by Ambrose Bierce. Although not technically ghost stories, the writings of Jorge Luis Borges push my brain to uncanny areas of coincidence and mystery.

The visual artists who have clearly influenced me are Rene Magritte, whose elegant canvases describe scenes that are quietly mad, and Max Ernst who created brilliant and humorous collages. I search through books of early 19th and 20th century photographs for imagery that imbues the sense of things both forgotten and remembered.

Susan Kaufman

Website: srkaufman.com

Event Location and Ticket Information

Loading Map....

Harrison Public Library
2 Bruce Avenue
Harrison, NY
Handicap Accessible? Yes

Date: Thursday, April 18, 2024
Times: 9:30 am - 5:30 pm

Ticket pricing:
Free event

Presenter: Harrison Public Library
Presenter Phone: 914-835-0324