UNSPOKEN WOMAN: But Can You Hear Ronna Pernell? by B.L. Eikner
Unspoken Woman is a collection of twentytwo new images of African Women in various places, spaces, and life experiences. Ronna Pernell has been working in stippling for quite some time and is moving her practice from black dots on white paper to white dots on gray mat board. The results are deeper dimensions and richer textures. Pernell channels her inspiration through the technique, “Through the use of stippling, the artistic concepts are able to connect the past to the present and allow the viewers to envision the future.”
and community. They go to work with their mothers, attend religious ceremonies, participate in social events, and have other community encounters. Pernell dressed the mother elegantly with head wrap, jewelry, and flowing garb which indicates an appearance at a celebration. The child has a dark spot in the middle of his forehead which may indicate innocence or openness to knowledge. Though the stipple process is a singular color, it creates texture, volume and rhythms on the faces and bodies of both mother and child.
“The literal connection of charcoal and pen on paper allowed me to begin to tell the stories of people, primarily from the African Diaspora, their challenges, their joys, and their everyday experiences.” The exhibit will be accompanied by brief audio narratives of each image read by Dr. Melanie Bratcher, PhD, Associate Professor of African American Studies at the University of Oklahoma and author of Words and Songs of Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone.
Hidden Mist is an image of a woman and her younger self. It begs the question, when do we grow up and become women? Is it just age or life experiences? Is it when we bear children or bear the burdens of the world? Pernell states, “As a young girl transitions into a young woman, the world begins to see her and sometimes does not fully understand who she is. Young girls are often forced to grow up before they are mentally and physically ready.” The dual images reflect the two personalities that exist in many cultures and voice issues of safety and security of women.
The narratives reach deep into the artist’s feelings and emotions on how women are silenced around the world, and particularly in Africa, not only in day to day life, but even in the creative world. “With every piece of work, I was able to expand my creative message to tell a story of hope, of empowerment, and to allow the viewer to understand the culture of those that have achieved success through faith and determination.” Pernell illustrates the show’s namesake, Unspoken Woman, on the backdrop of the continent of Africa. Pernell has taken extra care to make this young woman, who is seeking to be heard, beautiful and without blemish. She states on the central piece of the exhibit, “Her voice is heard without her saying a word. Her beauty glows from the inside out and her presence demands our undivided attention. She does not speak but we hear her voice emanating from her soul.” In speaking to the role of women as mothers, Nurturing the Children shows infants that are not just carried on the backs of African women, but planted in a position of safety to grow into active members of the family
Unspoken Woman opens November 16, 2015 through January 17, 2016 in the Oklahoma State Capitol, North Gallery, 2300 N Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, 73105. Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and, weekends from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. This event is free and open to the public. The opening reception will be Friday, November 20, 2015 from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and the public is invited. The special website launch of unspokenwoman.com will be November 20, 2015. Editor’s note: Pernell received an OVAC Creative Projects Grant in 2015, which helped fund the creation of this body of work. n B.L. Eikner is owner of Trabar & Associates, author of How Do You Love…When? and Dirt and Hardwood Floors. She can be reached via email at Trabar@windstream.net, or Twitter @trabar1.
(top) Ronna Pernell, Nurturing the Children, 2015 (bottom) Hidden Mist, 2015
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