Saturday, June 6, 2009

Jessie Dunahoo

        I admittedly found out about Jessie Dunahoo from an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The team was building a house in kentucky for the family of a blind, wheelchair-bound college aged musician, and they often try and get a local artist to create something for the new home. They chose Jessie Dunahoo. I was not only sucked in by what a genuinely sweet man he appeared to be, but by the delicateness and beauty of his work.
        Dunahoo has been deaf since birth, and blind since his teen years, so he communicates with gestures, some sign language, and by tracing words numbers and letters into palms with his fingers (translators sign back into his hands for him to feel the signs). This makes communication slightly difficult, so much of Dunahoo's would be "artist statement" for his pieces is speculation. He creates what he refers to as shelters (structures he has been creating since his childhood - partially as a means to navigate the woods of his family farm), delicate installations made from sewing together trash bags and scraps of fabric. Though Dunahoo himself can perhaps not appreciate the delicate visual beauty of his pieces, or the soft wrinkling sounds I would imagine they create, he is attracted to his fabrics and plastic bags for their tactile nature.
        Bruce Burris, director of the Minds Wide Open Arts Center, where Dunahoo often creates his structures, has said, "He has a rip-roaring imagination. Everything implied by shelter is what I'm getting. That's what makes his work so darn interesting. It's all about environment. My guess is that for him, it's about having control and empowerment by creating an environment.''
        Dunahoo is represented by the Edlin Gallery, which manages some extremely talented "outsider artists", including the estate of famed Henry Darger. He is also a Latitude Artist, an artist community in Lexington, Kentucky, where the members of EM:HE met with him and received the quilt he created for the new home.
        His work is currently on view at the Lexington Public Library (for anyone who happens to be traveling to Kentucky anytime soon), a set of two+ story quilts (shown in following image).

for those of you not in the Kentucky area, you should check out his work at the Edlin Gallery website, and read this great article on Dunahoo.

images:, &

1 comment:

  1. Jesse Dunahoo's work is the equal of Rauschenbrg's banners. Genuinely awe inspiring because he has made it under such limitations. The work is both poised and powerful, jumping traditions from American quilting to abstract expressionism. I'm so pleased to have found this artist.Thanks!!