Cottage Grove, WI, 2013
courtesy of the artist
“Jason Vaughn: Hide,” Sarah Stankey, Lenscratch
“A Photographer’s Moving Portrait of Rural Life in a Changing America,” Carter Love, New York Times
Driftless, Jason Vaugh and Brad Zellar
Wisconsin-based photographer Jason Vaughn approaches rural subject matter with a patience and attentiveness that uncovers monumental and even spiritual significance in places easily overlooked, or judged otherwise. In a moment when renewed, although often one-dimensional, attention has focused on rural culture and community, Vaughn’s photography demonstrates the distance between merely documenting the exterior conditions of a place and instead locating an awareness of the interior, emotional resonance a landscape can communicate.
This quality is embodied in the photographs included in this exhibition from the Hide series, which took place during a moment in the artist’s life when he was balancing a recovery from leukemia with a new role as father. Inspired by the varying architecture and placement of deer stands he would see in his drives through Wisconsin, Vaughn began a project that not only photographed these structures but also located deeper threads of community, care, and generational knowledge through relationships he cultivated with hunting families:
“Some people described building the stands as something permanent that could be passed to the next generation, especially sons who would inherit the land,” Vaughn told Lenscratch magazine. “I was anticipating the birth of my own son and thinking about my legacy to him, so this idea resonated strongly with me. I also heard hunters emphasize that their pastime is not about violence, but more about oneness with nature and time spent with their children in the stands. I wanted these photographs to capture the serenity of that sentiment, and to suggest the dignity that was associated with hunting when it was seen as a means of feeding large families.”Selections from Hide were included in Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art’s expansive State of the Art exhibition; his photographs are present in numerous museum collections across the country and have been featured in publications ranging from Artforum to The New York Times. Vaughn’s most recent project, Driftless, brings attention to the intersection of the geological and cultural landscapes of the unglaciated Upper Mississippi River blufflands of the La Crosse, Wisconsin region. A collaboration with writer Brad Zellar, this work makes visible the often overlooked domestic and natural spaces that mark the points of transition between physical and emotional states. A photo book presentation of Driftless was published in 2018 by TBW Books.
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