Dec. 2, 2021
Virginia Commonwealth University art student Madeleine Dugan’s work uncovering facts about the lives of the people in famed photographer Man Ray’s portraits played a key role in creating the exhibition “Man Ray: The Paris Years,” on view at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts through Feb. 21.
When Dugan graduates in December, she will have the unique credential of “exhibition research assistant” on her resume and can tout having a strong imprint on a groundbreaking exhibit that shines a light on those who worked, lived and performed in Paris in the 1920s and 30s.
“I really have loved it a lot,” said Dugan, who is majoring in craft and material design in the School of the Arts and minoring in art history and criminal justice. “I like making discoveries, and researching is so fun. I just love to learn.”
Sarah Powers, Ph.D., a VMFA curatorial research specialist who was Dugan’s high school art history teacher at St. Catherine’s School, gave her the tip about the job opportunity two years ago. Powers is married to Michael Taylor, Ph.D., chief curator and deputy director for art and education at the VMFA. Once in the job, Dugan worked directly with Taylor, who included her in meetings organizing the show, always asking her opinion on plans from design to programming. Dugan had a key role in other tasks from writing labels to proofreading copy.
“There were wonderful discussions around cultural appropriation [in Man Ray’s photographs],” Taylor said. “Madeleine brought so much to the fore and I think that’s what's been great about this is that the exhibition is unlike any previous Man Ray exhibition.”