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St. Louis–based artist Jess T. Dugan is known for their color photographs that explore the power of identity, desire, and connection. In Currents 120: Jess T. Dugan, the museum presents a selection of 20 recent works—portraits, self-portraits, and still lifes—many of which were created specifically for this exhibition. Within a framework of queer and nonbinary experience and from an actively constructed sense of masculinity, Dugan’s portraits examine intersections between individual identity and the search for intimate connection with others.

The photographs on display are part of Dugan’s ongoing project Every Breath We Drew, which began in 2011. The project is both outward looking and self-expressive, representing inclusive notions of gender and sexuality and examining intimate connection as a means of seeing oneself through the eyes of others. While Dugan’s work over the past decade has been made primarily in private, interior spaces, recent photographs also include St. Louis individuals and couples outdoors in natural environments. In a break from their earlier work, these portraits reveal a more expansive sense of space and a changed color palette while offering exploration of landscape.

Dugan uses medium-format cameras, natural light, and a slow working method to bridge traditional photographic practices with contemporary subjects. They draw influence from portrait painting, using light, color, gesture, and pose to imbue photographs with emotional and psychological intensity.

Dugan is the recipient of the Henry L. and Natalie E. Freund Fellowship, which includes this exhibition following a residency at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis.

Currents 120: Jess T. Dugan is curated by Hannah Klemm, associate curator of modern and contemporary art; and Eric Lutz, associate curator of prints, drawings, and photographs; with Molly Moog, research assistant for modern and contemporary art. The exhibition is supported in part by the Henry L. and Natalie E. Freund Endowment Fund.


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Exhibition Brochure