August 14, 2015

Jess T. DuganEvery breath we drew

Rollins College

Jess T. Dugan, Betsy, 2013. Pigment print.*

For nearly a decade, critically acclaimed artist Jess T. Dugan has been making photographic portraits that explore issues of gender, sexuality, identity and community from a highly individual and humanistic point of view. Every breath we drew explores the power of identity, desire and connection through portraits of herself and others. Working within the framework of queer experience and from her actively constructed sense of masculinity, Dugan’s portraits examine the intersection between private, individual identity and the search for intimate connection with others. She photographs people in their homes, often in their bedrooms, using medium and large format cameras to create a deep, sustained engagement, resulting in intimate and detailed portraits.

Jess T. Dugan combines formal portraits, images of couples, self-portraits and photographs of her own romantic relationship to investigate broader themes of identity and connection while also speaking to private, individual experience. The photographs of men and masculine individuals act as a kind of mirror: they depict the type of gentle masculinity Dugan is attracted to, yet also the kind she wants to embody. Similarly, the photographs of relationships speak to a drive to be seen, understood and desired through the eyes of another person—a reflection of the self as the ultimate intimate connection. Through beautifully intimate and honest portraits, Every breath we drew engages larger questions about how identity is formed, desire is expressed, and intimate connection is sought.

The artist’s choice of large format photography is significant for its historical reference to classical portrait photography. By using a more traditional format to look at a very contemporary and complex subject, she is inviting a sustained look from viewers who might otherwise shy away from the subject matter, asking them to engage with our shared humanity across borders of gender and sexuality. Amy Galpin, Curator, Cornell Fine Arts Museum, states, “Jess Dugan’s works juxtapose the universal and the personal. They are at once about the issue of human dignity and also the intimate relationship between artist and subject. While Dugan’s works belong to a history of portraiture in their composition and construction, they are distinctive and profound on their own.”

The Cornell Museum of Fine Arts at Rollins College is pleased to produce the first museum exhibition of Every breath we drew, scheduled to open in August 2015. The exhibition will be accompanied by the debut of Dugan’s monograph Every breath we drew, which is being published by Daylight Books and is scheduled for release in September 2015. The catalog includes an essay by Amy Galpin, Curator, Cornell Fine Arts Museum, and an interview between the artist and photographer Dawoud Bey. Dugan will give a lecture at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum on November 5 at 6pm.

Jess T. Dugan holds a BFA in Photography from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, a Master of Liberal Arts in Museum Studies from Harvard University, and an MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago. Dugan’s work is regularly exhibited nationally and is in the permanent collections of the Harvard Art Museum, the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona, the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, and the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, among others. The Cornell Fine Arts Museum recently acquired the portrait Betsy (2013) with funds provided by the Diversity Council at Rollins College.

The Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College is the only teaching museum in the greater Orlando area. The Museum’s broadly scoped collection, recognized as one of the largest and most distinguished collections in Florida, includes more than 5,000 objects ranging from antiquity through contemporary eras, including rare Old Master paintings and a comprehensive collection of prints, drawings and photographs. In 2013, the Museum forged a partnership with The Alfond Inn, a visionary philanthropic boutique hotel owned by Rollins College, whose proceeds help fund student scholarships, to create a satellite exhibition space for the Museum’s Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art.

For additional information, call T +407 646 2526 or visit our website.

CFAM public tours:
Free staff-led tours on Saturdays and Sundays at 1pm. Private tours for groups of ten or more email [email protected]

Museum admission:
Free admission courtesy of Dale Montgomery ’60.

Alfond Inn location:
The Alfond Inn at Rollins College
300 East New England Avenue
Winter Park, FL 32789

Alfond Inn art tours:
Free staff-led tours on Fridays at 1pm.
Audio guide available here

Media contact:
Sandy Todd, Cornell Fine Arts Museum
T +407 646 1595 / [email protected]

*Jess T. Dugan, Betsy, 2013. Pigment print. Collection of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum with funds provided by the Diversity Council, Rollins College. © Jess T. Dugan.


Jess T. Dugan: Every breath we drew at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College

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