Jeff Whetstone

Born 1968, Chattanooga, TN

Jeff Whetstone is a photographer and professor of visual arts at Princeton University. A native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, he photographs and writes about the relationship between humans and their environment. Whetstone served for five years as an artist-in-residence at Appalshop, Inc., in Kentucky, where he produced numerous exhibitions about the changing Appalachian culture and landscape. Whetstone has won may prizes and fellowships including the Guggenheim Fellowship in 2007. His work has been reviewed in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the New Yorker, the Village Voice, New York Magazine, and Art News, among other publications. Prior to teaching at Princeton, he was a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for fourteen years.

For his third solo exhibition at Julie Saul Gallery, titled, Crossing the Delaware, Whetstone photographed the Lower Trenton Bridge in several formats, focusing on structural elements, letters of the slogan, portraits of drivers, birds, and the landscape to mine both cultural and physical infrastructure. He has dismantled the slogan of the Lower Trenton Bridge, “TRENTON MAKES / THE WORLD TAKES”, into individual letters to make new words, phrases, and sounds to reflect contemporary aspirations, realities, and mantras. Through a process he calls “aggregate contact printing,” Whetstone has created large silver gelatin prints comprised of multiple negatives that present new words and images. For example, “Heel, Hand, Knee” (83 x 49” contact print) incorporates 186 individual negatives.

Whetstone’s second exhibition at Julie Saul Gallery in 2011 explores the nexus of language and wilderness through narrative video, 16mm film installation, digital animation, and photography. Hunters transcend gender, men write with snakes, and a landscape is made from sound-waves. Ritual and language map the wilderness and dissipate delineations of gender and species. Animal is Animal. Whetstone’s 14 minute video, On the use of a Syrinx, translates the sounds of the primeval forest into a narrative of seduction and domination, where the resplendent wilderness camouflages sexual fantasy.

Post-Pleistocene, shown at Julie Saul Gallery in 2008, is a study of cave markings in the Saltpetre caves of Tennessee and Alabama. Since the Civil War, when these caves were used to produce gunpowder, people of the region have been marking the cave walls. The photographs depict the primal satisfaction of mark making and the human fascination with self, sexuality, and color.

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