Artist Spotlight: J. Ford Huffman

Surrounded by little theaters, DC-based artist J.Ford Huffman stands in his dining room and excitedly tells the narrative of each box, two dozen of which will be a part of his upcoming solo exhibition at Politics and Prose, Little Theaters, opening February 28 with a public reception on Saturday, March 2.

“This is called ‘Map Room.’ It’s from a series involving impressions of the White House,” Huffman explained, pointing to a re-purposed wine box. Inside the box, an upside-down grandfather clock and monstrous fragments of a Greek temple set the stage for an unknown scene. Amid gaudy pink accents, an imposing street map of Washington DC hangs on the back wall, as if in a wartime conference room. 

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Many things hang on the walls of Huffman’s miniature worlds, each created with the intention to evoke the viewer to complete the story’s sentence.

Cook Books stars a tiny bronze man, reaching up to stir a disproportionately large holiday pot holding what else, but, a book. A picture-less picture frame extends beyond the wall and seemingly life-size primary color bricks are stacked upon one another, scattered around the curious kitchen. Peering into the miniature stage, one is instantly reminded of Alice in Wonderland. 

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“It’s playful at first glance,” said Huffman who explained his interest creating a challenge for the viewer to contemplate “why.” 

In Upper-case ‘BOOK’ Case, one of the capital “O” in the big yellow “B-O-O-K,” has fallen from the top shelf and lays defeated, knocked over, resting on its side.

“Did the ‘O’ fall because it just toppled over or did something more ominous happen here?” Huffman implored. 

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Cook Books and Upper-case “BOOK” Case are not the only theaters with a book theme.

“I love challenges so I wanted to see what I could come up with working around the venue. So for this one, books because Politics and Prose is a book store,” Huffman said.

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Permabooks lines up gorgeously colored African wood samples along a bookshelf supported by makeshift legs, and is paired next to a vintage Barclay doll for scale and a barely translucent paper bush for depth. Table of Contents stacks a series of books, each one’s aesthetic beautifully flowing into the other to create a composed composition, all tied together with a red background, red 1887 marbleized paper floor, and red accents such as the miniature figurine’s apple. In contrast to the witty word play works, Content Context takes on a more modern feel, its white letters naturally spliced in half by a wood shelf in the top half. On the bottom, a white plastic figure gazes into an image from an 1879 edition of “Recreation in Astronomy.” The work is successful in making the viewer think, as the box’s beholder gazes into the set the same way the miniature man looks out into a distant land. 

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“When I give lectures on journalism, or writing or editing, I always emphasize context versus content,” Huffman said about the inspiration for Content Context.  

Not all theaters in the show, priced at $300 and above, are book-related.Volts per cell is an interactive theater that requires the viewer to flip through anatomy profiles of the human head. Sisters pairs the 1889 painting of The Abbess of Jouarre with a plaster statue of Saint Theresa Little Flower of Jesus. Huffman includes a carefully placed mirror in the corner of the box so that one can clearly see the two nuns are looking at one another. The viewer wonders if they are looking at each other in admiration or contempt.

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Huffman’s typically playful, sometimes provocative, and always clever little theaters, take the viewer on a delightful journey into a tiny, magical word beyond his own.

Little Theaters is on display at Politics and Prose from February 28 until April 4. An opening reception will take place on Saturday, March 2 from 7- 9 PM.

Politics and Prose is located at 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008 and is open Monday through Saturday from 9 AM- 10 PM and Sunday from 10 AM- 8 PM

Bringing the Art in DC to You,

Roxanne Goldberg