Jess T. Dugan

(Biloxi, Mississippi, 1986 - )

Self-portrait with Mom (bed)


Archival pigment print

18 x 24 in. (45.7 x 61.0 cm)

Collection of the Akron Art Museum

Museum Acquisition Fund


More Information

These five works are part of Jess T. Dugan’s broader project titled Family Pictures, which spans from 2012 to the present and remains ongoing. In discussing the project, it is helpful to refer to the artist’s statement on it: “Family Pictures is a long-term project focusing on three generations of my family: my partner Vanessa and me, our daughter Elinor, and my mother Diana and her partner Chris. I am interested in the complexity of these relationships, both given and chosen, and how they change over time. While these photographs are highly personal, they also address a broader lack of representations of queer families in society. I began this project in my mid-twenties. The photographs with my mother explored my relationship with her from a child’s vantage point, and the photographs with Vanessa captured our relationship in its early years. Over the past decade, these relationships have deepened and evolved significantly. Becoming a parent in 2018 fundamentally changed how I view myself, and it transformed my understanding of family and my orientation to the world. The experience of simultaneously being a child and a parent altered my relationship with my mother, and parenting Elinor threw aspects of my own childhood into heightened relief, causing me to revisit memories and feelings from my past. Another undercurrent in my work about my family—and one that is not visible here—is my estrangement from my father, resulting from his lack of acceptance of my relationship with Vanessa and our desire to raise a child together. I am actively working to be a different parent to Elinor than he was to me: to support her, nurture her, and love her unconditionally.” The project thus connects with many of the artist’s broader interests, including self-portraiture, personal vulnerability, and queer representation. Dugan has also collaborated with members of their family on other projects. With their mother, they recall: “I had chest reconstruction surgery on January 5, 2005 at the age of 18. Two weeks later, the first time I could physically handle my 4 x 5 view camera, I made a picture of my mother and I standing topless next to each other.” They have taken a similar picture together each year from 2010 to the present. Dugan’s partner, Vanessa Fabbre, is a social worker and assistant professor at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, and the two of them have collaborated on projects involving work with queer communities, including the book To Survive on This Shore: Photographs and Interviews with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Older Adults.


Signed and numbered (1/10) on label, verso