Seth Kaufman is a prolific conceptual artist whose projects range from painstakingly constructed ceramic and paint-based sculptures, to a deceptively casual Instagram presence. The latter includes several ongoing series of in-camera circumstantial collages, naturally occurring juxtapositions between thrift-store displays, people and advertisements, discarded objects in random dramatic street light, nail art, architectural surrealism, slow-motion video scenes, etc. But as Kaufman explains to the Weekly, it’s his co-existence as a doting father that since 2013 has dominated his daily art practice.
That’s when he started what’s become known on IG by its hashtag, #peanutbutterandjellyrigor. Long story short, his school-age daughter loves — but loves — PB&J sandwiches. Every school day by about 5:30 a.m., you can find Kaufman at the heirloom cutting board at which his mother once performed the same kind of daily kitchen rituals. It’s his first art studio of each day, stocked with the tools and materials of the project at hand — a good sharp knife, Trader Joe’s organic strawberry (or raspberry) jelly, organic peanut butter and Milton’s whole wheat.
Now, some kids like the crusts cut off, and there’s a low-key debate out there about slicing them in half along the vertical or horizontal axis — but the way Kaufman does it, it’s at a whole other level. Thinking back to his reconstituted ceramics or his elaborate paint-chip assemblages, and even his Insta-honed eye for frolicking detail and abstract patterns, Kaufman decided early on to make every PB&J a unique artistic object — by turns charming, astonishing, complex, adorable, and alien, and every one Instagrammable as hell.
Each one is titled with its sequential number and the date of its making. We’re talking bullseyes, spirals, bubbles, flames, geometrical and organic shapes, maned lions. When the sandwiches stay square, they resemble stained glass windows, the slices like soldering seams. But they get really tricky when sections are removed and arranged on the wooden surface, like mosaics. To date, there are over 400 posted, and neither the artist nor his daughter have lost their taste for it.