Self-Portrait with Toys
Daniel Kaufman's life as a visual artist began four decades ago when his father gave him a camera for his Bar Mitzvah. Daniel studied photography and fine art at Amherst College where he was graduated in 1973. While at Amherst Daniel immersed himself both in the study of Japanese art at Smith College and in photography, attending workshops with Minr White, Paul Caponigro and George Tice among others.
As the first artist in any media to receive a Fulbright Grant, Kaufman spent a year in Ireland photographing "the visual equivalent to the poetry of Yeats". His award-winning book IRELAND:PRESENCES was published in 1980 by St. Martin's Press. Daniel's photographs were exhibited at the International Center of Photography in New York City in 1980. Cornell Capa, Executive Director of that world-renowned museum, wrote of Kaufman's photography:
"…The people and atmosphere of this magic land became magic images. This is the kind of work that restores one's faith in the alchemy of photography. Here is the fusion of mechanical and chemical tools with the spirituality and individuality of vision."
Twenty-three years ago Kaufman gave up this successful career in photography to devote himself to painting, earning a living by writing non-fiction books and magazine articles, and working as a literary agent. As a photographer, Kaufman felt unsatisfied, as if he were 'walking on the surface of the ocean of art'. He wanted more from photography than he was able to find.
Apprenticing himself to the internationally exhibited painter, Max Shertz, Daniel began to appreciate the underpinnings of art and his own consciousness. Whereas photography began on the surface, painting involved transcending the surface and giving expression to the Source of all creativity, what Max calls the Inner Artist. Daniel's efforts to create art are now concerned with stilling the mind of preconceptions, silencing the ever-dominating ego, and going beyond personal fears to arrive at a completely humbling and liberating art.
In the words of Robert Levy, prominent Los Angeles art appraiser and collector:
"Daniel's work, at once beautiful and challenging to behold…is original and unique, with a jeweler's delight in detail and a simultaneously macrocosmic effect that makes his best pieces enjoyable from a distance or very close up."
Biography for the Dictionary of Abstract Painting
Daniel J. Kaufman (b. New York City, May 4th, 1949) Childhood in Great Neck, Long Island, New York. Youngest of three boys (Brother David, a physician, oldest brother Kenneth an engineer). Son of Ruth and Matthew Kaufman (mother a writer, creator of Batman's sidekick Robin, father a suburban orthodontist and math genius). Studied photography, composition, Japanese Art, Art Theory and Art History at Amherst College, Smith College, the University of Rochester and at the Carpenter center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University. BA with Honors in Fine Arts from Amherst College, 1973 (originally Class of '71, but left after sophomore year on approved leave of absence to study the Transcendental Meditation technique with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Spain, Italy and Switzerland). Became a Transcendental Meditation initiator in 1972 and returned to Amherst College and then to Rochester, New York to teach TM and pursue large format photography with William Giles. Personal apprenticeships and workshops with Minor White, George Tice and Paul Caponigro, Cambridge, Massachusetts (1973-1975). Worked as a travel photographer for tourist boards and magazines, including National Geographic and Life, and tested new films in exotic locations for Polaroid Corporation (1973-1978). First artist in any medium to be awarded the Fulbright Fellowship administered by the Department of State to photograph for the academic year '77-'78 in Ireland. Book of Kaufman's color photographs IRELAND: PRESENCES published by St. Martin's Press in 1980. Solo exhibition of his photographs at the International Center of Photography in New York City in 1981. Museum Director Cornell Capa writes of Kaufman's photographs: "This is the kind of work that restores one's faith in the alchemy of photography. Here is the fusion of mechanical and chemical tools with the spirituality and individuality of vision". Numerous photography gallery and art gallery exhibitions followed Daniel's museum show, and he continued to enjoy success as a travel and tourist board photographer with articles about his work in national magazines (Popular Photography, May, 1979).
Called by the Art Muse while visiting the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard, Christmas, 1982, Daniel decides to move from Cambridge to Los Angeles and become what his art teacher calls an "Inner Artist". Apprentices with internationally exhibited "artist of the unconscious" Max Shertz (www.artistusa2002.com) for more than a year (1984). Enabled to paint full time for nearly two years by a gift from his friend since Transcendental Meditation days, software mogul Mitchell Kapor (Founder of Lotus Development Corporation, and known as the "Thomas Jefferson of Cyberspace"), Daniel discovers his own unconscious in a series of surrealist abstract oil pastels and gouache paintings which change his life (1984-1985). Marries Gina Ficarotta, 1985. Creates larger paintings on masonite, canvas and wood with oil and water-based enamel paints, and with fiber reactive dyes. Daughter Anastasia Sara born December 15th, 1988. First solo exhibition of his paintings at Gallery 5, Santa Monica, California in December 1990, exactly eight years after first strong desire to paint at the Fogg Art Museum. Discovers encaustic art using his daughter's Crayola crayons, melting them with spatulas on an electric stove (1991). Divorced from Gina (1992). Develops and perfects techniques for melting crayons onto wood, canvas, masonite and fired clay tiles using irons, heat guns, torches and spatulas. (1992-2004). Writes ten picture books for young children (1993-'94). Creates dozens of welded metal sculptures from found metal objects removed from the incinerated homes of the 1994 Malibu fires. Metal sculptures exhibited at the Roberts Art Gallery, the oldest art gallery in Santa Monica, California (1994). Continues to create wax paintings using mostly Crayola crayon products. Commissioned by Expression Magazine to write article entitled "Crayons Rediscovered" (2003). Receives 10,000 unlabelled white crayons as a gift from the Crayola Corporation through Stephen Dashe, Manager, Inventor Relations and External Innovation (February 2004). Uses 3,500 of these white crayons plus Color Slicks, Pearl Brites, Neon and Metallic crayons supplied by Crayola to create a breakthrough "signature" series of twenty 48" x 36" cradled masonite panels in two weeks entitled "God Of Flowers, Physics and Chemistry" at the challenge of Bill Lowe, Director of the Lowe Galleries in Santa Monica, California and Atlanta, Georgia (June, 2004) In the words of Robert Levy, prominent Los Angeles art appraiser, "Kaufman's work is original, unique, with a jeweler's delight in detail and a simultaneously macrocosmic effect that makes his best pieces enjoyable from a distance or very close up". Museum curator Michael Zakian (of the Palm Springs Desert Museum and the Frederick Weisman Museum in Malibu) compares Daniel's work to the American surrealists Knud Merrild and Boris Margo. Daniel Kaufman is also the author of six published non-fiction books (1978-1994).