Kitty Huffman: Self Portrait

According to an article this year, Amercians’ top fears include: terrorism, flying and heights. All of these, we can assume, stem from an ultimate fear of physical pain or death. However, there are those whose life experiences include certain hardships or burdens that would cause them to fear something such as abandonment above even the most horrific physical harm. Wisconsin-based artist Kitty Huffman has explored such ides through her video piece, Self Portrait, which is currently on view in the Wisconsin Triennial at Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

Huffman, who was born and raised in Communist Romania to Hungarian parents, is interested in experiencing and documenting risks of abandonment, as well as humans’ interactions with the natural world. In her performance piece/video, Self Portrait, Kitty has presented herself in a most vulnerable state—naked in the snow amongst a herd of wild deer. The slow-moving video looks almost like a landscape painting, and rightly so—it was inspired by a Hungarian folk tale that takes place in such a setting. After an anxious few moments of eying Huffman horizontal on the cold earth, we see deer begin to wander into the frame. Eventually, an entire herd makes its way into the scene, vaguely aware of the artist’s presence. It is a tense yet distanced interaction in which you get the feeling that Huffman both longs for and fears that the wild animals will approach her. And then something scares the deer off—maybe a sound, or the presence of a person or vehicle out of frame. They spring off and leave Huffman alone once again, left to deal with both the joy of safety and the sadness of abandonment.

Kitty Huffman is a current MFA candidate at School of the Art Institute, Chicago. She earned her BA at University of Wisconsin-Madison and previously studied drama at Babes Bolyai University, Romania before moving to the U.S. Her work has been included in the 4th International Short Film Festival in Germany.