Susanna and the Elders, 2004-2007

In recent scenes, the fantasy in Silent Fires seems to have given way to the grotesque. Self-portraits are frequent. Influenced by Rembrandt and Beckmann, the self-portraits outline considerations on time, as well as on the place and the role of the artist. Jeffrey Silverthorne portrays his own aging body in strange situations, in the company of young nude women, often crowned by a head full of hair curlers. Susanna and the Elders (2004 – 2007) speaks of morals, law and transgression. The scenes from The Caucasian Basement Staircase Series (2005) refer more to the concepts of falling and of transcendence.

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Tex-Mex, 1986-2007

Jeffrey Silverthorne is sensitive to atmospheres which convey the texture, the smell, the temperature of places. This is very true in the Tex-Mex series. Free from any documentary purpose, the Tex-Mex series deals with the Mexicans who attempt to cross into the United States, and with the prostitutes of Nuevo Laredo. Silverthorne’s work has a timelessness which renders the body sensual and glorious. He borrows from great painters such as Velasquez, Rembrandt, Goya, Manet – who have always infl uenced him much more than other photographers.

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Missing, 1988-2001

Missing shows search warrants put up in the streets and on public buildings in the United States. The series revives the tradition of poster photography. Yet Jeffrey Silverthorne does not use the poster as a trompe-l’oeil. On the contrary, by insisting on their fragility as simple bits of paper and on the emptiness that surrounds them, the artist reinforces the feeling of absence. It is not so much the images and texts on the posters which interests him, it is how the private and intimate become part of public space, particularly after 9/11.

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The Detroit Negatives, 1991-1994

The Detroit Negatives includes two distinct units that create a certain anatomy of desire. On the one hand actors are staged in crummy motels in the Detroit area. On the other, there are collages composed of the negatives of low-end erotic photographs taken in Detroit hotels by an anonymous photographer in the 1950’s. Details of cadavers or anatomical diagrams added by Jeffrey Silverthorne serve as vanitas, introducing death into strongly vitalist images, raising the contradiction of existence.

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Letters from the Dead House, 1986-1991

Starting in the 1980’s, Jeffrey Silverthorne began working with the principle of collage, technique and state of mind which consists of incorporating diverse elements and creating a new reality. He brings post cards, copies of paintings or family photos into his images of cadavers. He writes on the negative, cuts, juxtaposes and superimposes images. Letters from the Dead House is described as research into the souvenirs, the desires and the fears that the deceased bring along into the world of the dead. After Silent Fires, Letters from the Dead House continues to show that unreality is an essential dimension of Silverthorne’s work.

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Morgue Work, 1972-1991

Jeffrey Silverthorne was authorized to photograph the Rhode Island morgue, where he most often eliminated all reference to context and focused on the bodies. The horror of details is emphasized through the downward shots and the close-ups. Yet Silverthorne also manages to convey a softer, even sensual image, of bodies which appear to be sleeping. The color photographs reinforce this ambiguity. Shame and revulsion give way to fascination provoked by the finesse of the colors and the matter of the destroyed, degenerating flesh.

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Silent Fires, 1982-1984

Jeffrey Silverthorne has been working on scenes since the early 1980’s. Often inspired by mythological or biblical tales, Silverthorne’s scenes are not literal illustrations. Silent Fires reinterprets the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. But the descent into the underworld is evoked solely through the mud and plaster that cover the bodies and the objects in the scene. The series is not a cohesive narrative. Different tales can be gleaned. The pear offered refers to original sin. New characters appear, such as the judge, a modern incarnation of the power of the gods.

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Female Impersonators, 1971-1974

Although he turns his back on objectivity, Jeffrey Silverthorne nevertheless keeps his subject at a safe distance. Yet he willingly infiltrates the shady places where transvestites and transsexuals – female impersonators – hang out. He is just an observer and often trains a pitiless eye on them, underscored by the use of ruthless flash. He is interested in the transformation of identity and yet he does not hesitate to put forward erotic stereotypes, vulgarity and the weary unsightliness of tired, lipsticked faces.

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Portraits,

Jeffrey Silverthorne began making portraits very early on. Though some come across like snapshots, most are the result of true acting and directing, to such an extent that it is difficult to distinguish between his portraits and his staged scenes. The models are often nude and assume unrealistic positions. The settings and accessories create a strange atmosphere, though they are not necessarily symbolic. The same strange and unsettling atmosphere can be sensed in the infrequent still lives done by Silverthorne.

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