Noise Study in Color #1, Colored pencil on paper, 11 x 14 inches, 2017
John Whitten (b. 1984 Indiana) earned his MFA in Interdisciplinary Art from the University of Oregon in 2014. Whitten aims to excavate the philosophical significance of what it means to wander while questioning what it means to be lost in search of the unfamiliar. Whitten's research happens deep in secluded wilderness areas where isolation and reflection can be found. By embracing doubt as a strategy and failure as a desirable outcome, the potentially ambiguous nature of signal and noise is explored as both positive and negative, signifier and obstruction, sacred and profane.
Recent drawings and video-based works involve mediating and objectifying safety instructions and signs of duress such as flares, smoke signals and rescue dye, dislodging the hope placed in them to embrace uncertainty. Whitten uses drawing, as both a representation and conceptual strategy, enabling further extraction whereby signs and signifiers are edited, reduced, confused and abstracted. Currently, his drawings employ methods that combine chance, intuition and structure to challenge a sense of control and disengage with pictorial realism. The results are full-color and monochromatic spectrums of bursts and waves.
As a process, drawing provides a meditative method by which Whitten maps personal experience, providing a construction of the unconscious. Driven by a passion for the outdoors and our cultural fascination with survivalism, Whitten’s drawings and videos investigate what it means to make one’s way through life.
Whitten's work has been included in recent exhibitions at Disjecta in Portland, OR; The Umpqua Valley Arts Association in Roseburg, OR; S1 in Portland, OR; the Tailgate-Based Arts Festival in conjunction with the Time-Based Arts Festival in Portland, OR; the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, TN; Melanie Flood Projects in Portland, OR; Belmont University’s Leu Art Gallery in Nashville, TN; the Nightingale Gallery at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande, OR; and Clatsop Community College in Astoria, OR.
He has been the recipient of numerous awards including a recent Professional Development Grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council in support of a residency with Signal Fire, a Career Opportunity Grant from the Oregon Arts Commission, a Golden Spot Award from the Ford Family Foundation, Hundred Valley's Award from the Umpqua Valley Arts Association in Roseburg, OR, was nominated as a Dedalus Foundation MFA Fellow, and has been awarded month long residencies at Playa in Summer Lake, OR and Caldera in Sisters, OR.