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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Krannert Art Museum | Jen Everett: Could You Dim the Lights?: Themes and Concepts

A Guide to Jen Everett's 2024 Exhibition, "Could You Dim the Lights?"

Through her debut exhibition, Jen Everett explores themes of African American vernacular photography and its use in communities, Black queer photography, seeking Black lesbian presence in archives, and house music and club culture in the Midwest (Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis). 

Black Lesbians In Archival Work

Throughout her process, Everett remixes images of herself in conversation with the materials she collects to talk about Black life, kinship, and collective gathering. Her new body of work, Queer Cosmologies, is comprised of photographs, moving images, and sound. Inspired partly by her 2022 residency on Fire Island, Queer Cosmologies surfaces Black lesbians and queer presence in Black vernacular archives. Everett revisits childhood photographs to ruminate on popular and queer media portrayals of lesbians from the 1980s to the present, seeking moments and venues – the club, the streets, the dancefloor – where freedom and love are possible, if precarious.

(Via Krannert Art Museum)

Queer Cosmologies 1 & 2,

2021. Digital collage on vinyl.

Courtesy of the artist.

Evidence and Existence

Foregrounding the shared transmission of knowledge across time, Everett invites co-presence with everything her work carries. She invokes writer Audre Lorde’s assertion and reminder that “…there is no place to go, except what you make.” With this work, the artist asks, “if there is no place to go, what does it mean to be here?” 

(via Krannert Art Museum)

African American Vernacular Photography

The Museum of Modern Art defines Vernacular Photography as "an umbrella term used to distinguish fine art photographs from those made for a huge range of purposes, including commercial, scientific, forensic, governmental, and personal."

Her subjects are never identified, and yet Everett has developed an aesthetic attuned to Black people modeling an ethic of care and intimacy. Her practice is deeply engaged with rupture –upheavals all too familiar in Black life – and how they shape interior worlds in ways that should be noticed and honored. As a result, the artist recognizes the private, intimate aspects of her vernacular images and creatively negotiates ways to maintain their quiet power even as they now circulate in public through her art. 

(Via Krannert Art Museum)

Ladies Love Jen,

2023. Digital collage.

Courtesy of the artist. © Jen Everett