UA Alumna’s Photography Showcased by Mental Health Advocacy Project

Alayna N. Pernell, “Portrait With My Ancestral Mother,” 2021, Image courtesy of the artist.

UA alumna Alayna Pernell’s photographic work has been recognized by the Too Tired Project (TTP), a national nonprofit arts organization advancing mental health advocacy through photography. Pernell’s work was selected by TTP’s executive director, acclaimed photographer Kelly Burgess, and featured on the pages of, a blog that explores and celebrates contemporary fine art photography and photographic artists.

Pernell’s photographic work focuses on “making the (in)visible narratives and lives of Black women visible.” She said that her recent work has been guided by two questions: “What can visual art tell us about the depiction of Black women throughout history?” and “How have those negative depictions of Black women led to their lack of mental and physical care?”

Featured works on the TTP page from Pernell’s photo series “Our Mothers’ Gardens” include a group of images in which the artist herself protectively and reverentially holds mid-20th-century era snapshots of Black women she found in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC). As part of her engagement with the works, Pernell contacted the collector who originally donated them to the AIC and has been communicating with him in an ongoing correspondence (PDF) that has resulted in changes to the way the photos are catalogued in the AIC’s collections.

For her work, Pernell was awarded the 2020-2021 James Weinstein Memorial Award by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago Department of Photography and the 2021 Snider Prize award by the Museum of Contemporary Photography. She was named to the Silver Eye Center of Photography 2022 Silver List and Photolucida’s 2021 Critical Mass Top 50. She received her MFA in photography from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the spring of 2021. In 2019, she graduated from The University of Alabama summa cum laude with a BA in studio art with a focus in photography and a minor in African American studies. Pernell is a lecturer of photography and imaging at the Peck School of the Arts, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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