S. BRETT
KAUFMAN
click image for enlargement 
In "Well I Wonder," a beautiful, bruised ballad by The Smiths, Morrissey, the band's hopeless-romantic singer/songwriter, croons over and over in his heartbreaking falsetto, "please keep me in mind, please keep me in mind." Spurned by a foolish lover, Morrissey implores the loutish lad to cherish their tragically brief encounter. Left to wander alone at song's end through the rainy streets of Manchester, Morrissey seeks solace in the prospect of his own immortality, though it's doubtful that his brute of a boyfriend will indeed keep our homo hero in mind.









S. Brett Kaufman certainly has, however. No doubt inspired by the same Morrissey fixation that held me in a perpetual state of secret swooning throughout our shared high school years, Kaufman has titled one of his recent photo collages "Please Keep Me In Mind." In this exquisite, explicit image of seduction and memorial, a bare-chested, rosy Romeo on the prowl suddenly experiences a Proustian remembrance of things past at the sight of another man (ex-lover? famous pop star?) whose bleeding tattoo and nipple ring are utterly unforgettable. Memory, myth, sex, pain and lost love mingle deliciously here, just as in Morrissey's sad song.










But let's back up a minute. No, let's go forward. A dozen summers have passed since our high school years in Los Angeles, and Kaufman now lives in San Francisco and works primarily in photo sculpture and collage. He deftly employs iconic imagery drawn from personal experience and popular culture to construct colorful tableaux that merge kitschy visuals with trenchant social commentary.










At once surreal, nostalgic and boldly contemporary, Kaufman's playful collages both celebrate and challenge the cult of personality that surrounds celebrities and tempts the rest of us. While Kaufman clearly reveres queer icons such as Marilyn Monroe, Billie Holiday and Oscar Wilde, he's more likely to debunk their myths than deify their cobwebbed reputations. Kaufman keeps Norma Jeane and Lady Day and Audrey Hepburn in mind, all right, but he doesn't merely pay lip service to their fame-kissed reverie. Thus Oscar and Bosie, birds of a feather, must sit out their dandified salad days behind bars, while Harvey Milk, victim of a Twinkie-eating madman, is ripped from the headlines and faced with a fatal media onslaught.










Kaufman's savvy appropriation of Jackie Kennedy into Van Gogh's "Starry Night" transforms her from widowed first lady into a pink-suited, sunflower-bearing object of Vincent's swirling obsession. He's less kind to Nancy Reagan, with good reason. As for Kaufman's grandmother, Ida, she's sittting pretty with the whole world in her hands.










Kaufman's sweetest image, and that which most delicately reminds us to keep loved ones and heroes in mind, is "Untitled is the Heart," in which Kaufman and a pal clasp hands for a commitment ceremony set in a fantasyland rose garden. Was Morrissey their best man? Well, I wonder.







We welcome your questions and comments regarding this exhibition in our

Discussion Group.

"Norma Jeane Preserved"
Photosculpture
24" x 20"




"Lady Day"
Photosculpture
24" x 20"
"The Giving of Audrey Hepburn"
Photosculpture
24" x 20"




"Portrait of Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas"
Photosculpture
24" x 20"




"Ode to Harvey Milk"
Photosculpture
24" x 20"




"Van Gogh's 'Jackie O.' "
Photocollage
24" x 20"
"Ida"
Photocollage
24" x 20"




"Every 8 Minutes...and the Man Slept On"
Photocollage
20" x 24"




"Untitled...is the Heart"
Photosculpture
20" x 24"