The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at PSU presents To Survive on This Shore, a new photographic exhibition on view from February 8 through April 30, 2022. This interdisciplinary project is a collaboration between Jess T. Dugan, photographer, and Vanessa Fabbre, social worker and assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis, whose research focuses on the intersection of LGBTQ issues and aging.
For more than five years, Dugan and Fabbre traveled throughout the United States seeking subjects whose experiences exist within the complex intersections of gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, sexuality, socioeconomic class and geographic location. They traveled from coast to coast, to big cities and small towns, documenting the life stories of this important but largely underrepresented group of older adults. The featured individuals have a wide variety of life narratives spanning the last 90 years, offering an important historical record of transgender experience and activism in the United States.
The exhibition will include 22 photographs, each paired with texts illuminating the life narratives of those photographed. While Dugan’s earlier work focused on issues of identity, gender and sexuality — and has often worked within LGBTQ communities specifically — this is their first body of work that focuses on older adults, a result of their collaboration with Fabbre. Dugan’s portraits are open, emotive and nuanced, utilizing direct eye contact to facilitate a meaningful exchange between subject and viewer. For the accompanying texts, Fabbre provides selections of full-length interviews to enhance the viewer’s connection to each subject’s story. The resulting exhibition provides a nuanced view into the struggles and joys of growing older as a transgender person and offer a poignant reflection on what it means to live authentically despite seemingly insurmountable odds.
The museum is located downtown Portland on the South Park Blocks, and open Tuesday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m., and Thursday 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. Check the website for updates.
Jess T. Dugan is an artist whose work explores issues of identity through photographic portraiture. Dugan’s work has been widely exhibited and is in the permanent collections of over 35 museums throughout the United States. Dugan’s monographs include To Survive on This Shore: Photographs and Interviews with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Older Adults (Kehrer Verlag, 2018) and Every Breath We Drew (Daylight Books, 2015). They are the recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, an ICP Infinity Award, and were selected by the Obama White House as an LGBT Artist Champion of Change. They are represented by the Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago, Ill.
Vanessa Fabbre Ph.D., LCSW, is an Assistant Professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, where she is also Affiliate Faculty in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies and a Faculty Scholar at the Institute for Public Health. She received her Ph.D. from the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. Her research explores the conditions under which gender and sexual minorities age well and what this means in the context of social forces such as heteronormativity, heterosexism and transphobia. She is also interested in critical perspectives on social work practice and interpretive methodology in the social sciences. She is actively involved in the Gerontological Society of America, the American Society on Aging and the Society for Social Work and Research. Her work has been published in The Gerontologist, the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, Social Work, the Journal of Gerontological Social Work, the Journal of Urban Health and the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.