Before Jason Vaughn emailed me about his work, I had seen it on Lenscratch and iGNANT; I remembered those looming figures, strange, beautiful, and humorous, reminding me somewhat of The Iron Giant. The structures blend in and stand out equally, almost appearing to be peering out from hiding spots in the woods or standing on shaky legs, hoping they’re effectively camouflaged. The artist’s series commenting on the changing values of hunting by cataloging Wisconsin deer stands took a turn when he was suddenly diagnosed with cancer, taking on a deeper, more personal meaning.

From the artist’s statement: I was inspired on my drives through Wisconsin by deer stands, and began having conversations with hunters about the tradition of hunting in their 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. 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. Finally, I wanted to look at the issue from a historical standpoint, and the impermanent nature of some of the stands illustrates the fading hunting tradition in Wisconsin, which has declined in recent years.

When I was diagnosed with leukemia in 2011, my work on “hide” was put on hold. I was 32 years old and had a 3-month-old baby at home. Having to face mortality so unexpectedly made me come back to the project with a new perspective on the ideas of permanence and impermanence. Ultimately, “hide” became my reflection on legacies and family, my homage to the state that has become my home, and a narrative about accepting change.

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