Jeff Whetstone: Post Pleistocene

  • Nov 2, 2008 – Feb 22, 2009
Jeff Whetstone, "Bangor Entrance", 2008, Chromogenic print, 40 x 50 in.
Courtesy of the artist and Julie Saul Gallery, New York.

North Carolina-based photographer Jeff Whetstone’s newest body of work, Post-Pleistocene, examines the history of man-made markings found within the depths of the Saltpetre caves of Tennessee and Alabama. From the vegetation surrounding the interior openings to the corridors and hidden rooms of these natural shelters, Whetstone’s large-format color photographs envelop us in the strange and foreboding darkness of spaces where all manner of people have taken refuge from the outside world.

During the Civil War, many of these caves were mined for their Saltpetre soil, which was used to produce gunpowder. Since then, the caves have become sites of lore, obsession, and extensive exploration, accumulating an expansive record of human markings, signatures, drawings, and messages on their walls. Some caves have been so heavily visited that the markings are several layers deep. They have elicited the voices of wild adolescents, homegrown explorers, civil war deserters, criminals, and scientists. Whetstone has photographed these caves from the vantage point of an artist, an explorer, an evolutionist, and a native son, and describes them as “cathedrals for human expression.”

Jeff Whetstone was born in Chattanooga, TN and lives and works in Durham, NC. He received a degree in Zoology from Duke University in 1990 and his MFA in photography from Yale University in 2001. His work has been exhibited internationally and has been reviewed in The Village Voice, New York Times, New Yorker Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2007 and won the 2008 Factor Prize for Southern Art. Whetstone teaches at the Art Department of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. His work is represented by Julie Saul Gallery, New York.

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