Born 1932, Beattyville, Kentucky.
Jessie Dunahoo was raised on a farm in rural Kentucky during a period when support for people considered to have a disability were even more limited than they are today. Deaf since birth, Dunahoo additionally lost his vision as a young man. Though no official record exists, it is thought that Dunahoo attended the Kentucky School for the Blind for at least a couple of years later in life. Beyond this, the artist was largely left to his own devices. Living on a farm in the 30s and 40s did, however, have its advantages and afforded the artist opportunities to explore and manipulate outdoor space.
Using dirt, brush, and other found debris, Dunahoo created various earth sculptures and paths on the land immediately surrounding the family’s house. Dunahoo also used various fences and trees to hang intersecting trees, ropes and wires which could be grasped and threaded, creating a 3D map which he used to navigate outdoor space, a practice he has maintained throughout his life, despite becoming a client of social services and residing in state-operated group homes.
In time, Dunahoo’s environments have grown and evolved into complex sewn structures made of found materials including grocery bags, fabric samples, pieces of old clothing and twine. Through an interpreter Dunahoo describes his works as shelters, and they are strung about his home and yard covering his walls, floor and ceiling. Dunahoo is aware that others view and evaluate his constructions and is always delighted to play the docent, escorting interested viewers in and around his creations. Outside of his home, Dunahoo maintains a studio at the Latitude Artist Community in Lexington, Kentucky.
2008, Folk Art Takes a New Form, Artsplace Gallery, Lexington
2008, Jessie Dunahoo, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York
2007, Recycled, Lexington Art League, Lexington
2005, Rasdall Gallery, University of Kentucky, Lexington
Institute 193, Lexington
Isaacs, Barbara, "An Impressive Touch of 'Genius' Jessie Dunahoo," Lexington Herald-Leader, November 22, 2008.
Clark, Robbie, "Blind Ambition," W Weekly, August 2, 2007.