Customs House Museum | October 1 through November 1
by Stephanie Stewart-Howard
New York native Carla Ciuffo began her artistic life in illustration, rising to manage a book company’s interior design division while doing freelance illustration work. She began to explore photography just a decade ago, in Sedona, Arizona. Her mother, a hobbyist photographer, passed away, and Carla picked up a camera to help honor her mother. Discovering she adored the new medium, she found herself deeply enmeshed in it. Carla is now a Nashvillian, with a gorgeous and inspiring series, Girl With A Scar, to be featured at the Customs House Museum in Clarksville, sponsored by Nashville Arts Magazine.
Girl With A Scar, a deeply powerful series of images rich in folkloric elements, helps tell a very personal story. Not long ago, Danielle, the talented daughter of Nashville musician Tim Langford and his wife, artist Nancy Davis—Ciuffo’s neighbors across the street—collapsed with a dangerous blood clot in her leg. She nearly died.
Vascular surgeons kept her leg open as she spent two weeks in the ICU. It was doubted she’d survive, but Danielle came back and thrived. She learned to walk again, and regained motion, but was left with a visual reminder of her near-death experience.
One of the worst parts was the fact that strangers were particularly nasty to her regarding her vivid scar. “For me, I looked at the scar, and I saw the trauma, but I also saw it for what it was, a statement of survival,” says Ciuffo.
Knowing she could do something to help make Danielle feel empowered, Carla invited her over to shoot images celebrating her return to life and help spur her to feel like a young, beautiful human being once again.
The striking images feature Danielle in black and white, starkly shaded with natural light, wearing a slim, dark shift dress and, more often than not, wings. The feathery costume piece plays with notions of faeries, angels, and birds—worldly and otherworldly visions with layered textures.
Ciuffo goes beyond the specific trauma Danielle experienced by creating images of universal suffering through her depictions of wounded angels and winged creatures that permit viewers to consider their own perceived imperfections.
“I feel like it’s a beautiful statement on the body, the wonder of being alive,” says Ciuffo. “I hope you come with an open heart and leave uplifted,” she says of the show.