John Dugdale: Recent Work June 9 — July 8, 2000

 John Dugdale has achieved an international reputation as an artist who produces wonderfully intimate photographs. What's most remarkable about this fact is that he has done so in spite of severe medical conditions which could have ended his career. Widely regarded as a prominent commercial photographer, Dugdale turned his attention to his fine art after he lost his eyesight in 1993 to CMV retinitis, an AIDS related illness. Once sought after by such renown clients as Bergdorf Goodman and Ralph Lauren, Dugdale found himself alone, gaining strength from friends and family who never left his side. Completely blind in his right eye, Dugdale found himself seeing with less than twenty percent visibility in his left eye. While blindness ended his commercial career, he found himself free to explore his fine art, using friends and family members as studio assistants. Using an 8 x 10" camera, Dugdale created ways of setting up a photograph, relying on others to focus the camera. Working with the blue and white hues of the cyanotype, a process developed in 1841 which uses the sun to expose the sensitized paper, Dugdale found a way to avoid the darkroom and the harsh chemicals he can no longer endure and still create sensitive, affecting images. The results of his persistence are images which are both poignant and delicate, contemplative yet quietly potent. Dugdale relies on his memory to compose still lives, nudes and self-portraits which resonate with sadness, beauty, death and the joy of life. As he said in a 1998 interview, "The mind is the essence of your sight. It's really the mind that sees." Through Dugdale's images we are reminded of the works of Thomas Eakins, Julia Margaret Cameron and F. Holland Day. These historical references fuel the work with meaning that is both familiar yet unassuming. Whether it's an arm resting on a Victorian chaise, a man curled in the entryway of a cemetery, a vase reflecting sunlight on a mantel, or a display of tulips drooping onto a counter, Dugdale invites us into a sightless world where beauty exists and memories thrive. Through his work we understand the power of sight, both real and remembered.


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