Portrait Week: Jesse Egner: No Femmes. No Fats.
This week are are featuring portrait projects, the first two seen at CENTER’s Review Santa Fe.
Artist Jesse Egner has created a series of self-portraits and portraits that are at once provocative and humorous and are a deeper exploration of self and queerness. His project, No Femmes. No Fats, is a series of narratives that speak to identity and ultimately self-acceptance. As he states, “No Femmes. No Fats allowed me to begin a visual exploration into non-normative queerness through the utilization of elements such as absurdity, humor, and the uncanny.”
Jesse Egner (he/they) is a queer artist and educator currently based in Brooklyn, New York. Often taking the form of playful and absurd portraiture of himself and other individuals, his work explores themes such as queerness, homonormativity, mental illness, and body neutrality. He received his BA from Millersville University of Pennsylvania in 2016 and his MFA from Parsons School of Design in 2020. His work has been exhibited and published globally and is included in the permanent collection at the Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts. He is a 2022 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellow in Photography and has recently participated in residencies at the Santa Fe Art Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico; Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer, Alaska; and Studio Vortex in Arles, France.
Follow Jesse Egner on Instagram: @jesseegner
No Femmes. No Fats.
When I started making profiles on gay dating/hookup apps as a teenager, this is a phrase I came across frequently, which set precedent that defined my body as unwelcome. As a queer person with a non-normative body and an invisible disability, the constant rejection from gay communities set in motion a battle between my queerness and the body I inhabit.
This work began with self-portraiture—an action that felt aggressive towards myself due to my aversion to it as a practice, perhaps through years of conditioning to despise my appearance. However, it allowed me to begin a visual exploration into non-normative queerness through the utilization of elements such as absurdity, humor, and the uncanny. I eventually moved on from just self-portraiture and began photographing with other queer people in a collaborative process which allowed other narratives and experiences to influence my work. This collaborative process became an integral part of my work, with me often appearing in the photograph with my subjects, where we play and explore together through the images we create.
My photographs do not seek to offer complete and concrete narratives of identity, rather, they present uncertain and fragmented narratives that exist in a space between reality and fantasy, reflecting the transitional space(s) in which queerness exists. When I take photographs, the process is spontaneous, playful, and collaborative. This process—which is reminiscent of the practice of free-association—echos the fluidity and dynamism of non-normative queer identities.
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