A photography project titled “hide” by Sonora native Jason Vaughn continues to gain national attention.
Vaughn, now a resident of Madison, Wis., has had selections from his project displayed at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and the Aperture Gallery in New York. The works also will featured at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., Sept. 13 through Jan. 19.
The full portfolio, consisting of more than 30 images of Wisconsin deer hunting stands, will be published in a book in September.
The outlook is decidedly brighter now than it was three years ago, when Vaughn, the son of Sonora artists Bill and June Vaughn, was diagnosed with leukemia and underwent months of intense treatments.
“He is now a healthy, happy father and husband and his photography has far exceeded his wildest dreams,” June said.
Jason Vaughn was born at the Sonora Birth Center in 1979. He attended Soulsbyville Elementary School from kindergarten through eighth grade and spent his high school years at the Mother Lode Adventist Junior Academy and Modesto Adventist Academy.
He went to college in Texas — Southwest Adventist College for two years and then the Dallas Art Institute, where he graduated with a degree in graphic arts.
After college he moved to Los Angeles, where he met his future wife, Shola, while both were working at Universal Music.
“This is when his love for photography started to ignite,” June said.
The two were married in 2008 and moved to Madison in 2011 so Shola, a Harvard graduate and Wisconsin native, could begin medical school. They had their son, Suru, in August 2011.
“That November, Jason was diagnosed with leukemia and his life came to an abrupt halt,” June said.
He was 32 years old with a 3-month-old baby at home.
After one month of chemotherapy in the hospital and six months of outpatient treatment, Vaughn resumed work on the photos.
“Having to face mortality so unexpectedly made me come back to the project with a new perspective on the ideas of permanence and impermanence,” Vaughn said. “Ultimately, ‘hide’ became a reflection on my own legacy and family, an homage to the state that has become my home, and a narrative about accepting change.”
Vaughn prefers to work in the film medium with a large format camera and negatives.
He became interested in deer stands on his first visit to the Midwest with his wife. He had no idea what they were, but learned they were used by hunters for shelter and better viewing, with each varying in construction and amenities.
At first considering hunting violent and unnecessary, he said he soon gained a new appreciation for the tradition.
“Some people described building the stands as something permanent that could be passed on to the next generation, especially sons who would inherit the land,” Vaughn said. “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 associated with hunting when seen as a means of feeding one’s family.”
Three of Vaughn’s photos will be featured in the Arkansas exhibit, titled “State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now.” They also were purchased for the permanent collection.
The Crystal Bridges show is the culmination of a year-long process that began with a focus on some 10,000 American artists and included more than 1,200 hours of interviews and thousands of miles logged by the curators conducting research.
Free admission to the museum is sponsored by Walmart.
Bill and June Vaughn will be there for the opening reception on Sept. 11.