“Here’s to good women. May we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.”
The mantra that hung in Jenna Alexander’s bathroom throughout her childhood has never left her. It was her inspiration for her newest series, Stripes and Buns. She wanted to know what made a good woman. Flipping through her 260-page book, you find out. “Their words tell more of a story than their pictures,” she says.
Alexander, a St. Augustine based artist, photographed over 200 women in striped shirts and buns. They are authentic photographs, symbolizing a hardworking woman.
Out of the 200 photographs, she chose 30 to transform into oil paintings. There are red, blue and purple strokes you would never expect to see in a painting of a human. Her biggest inspiration is Wayne Thiebaud, a pop art painter most famous for his unexpected color use in oil paintings. Hanging above Alexander’s desktop is a study she did in college of Girl in White Boots of a girl in a yellow dress wearing white leather boots. To emphasize light reflecting off the boots, there are yellow, orange, pink and blue pops of color. In Alexander’s work, there are purple strokes on the back of an arm, a blue stroke through hair, periwinkle cheeks, adding depth and dimension.
After the photography sessions, Alexander asked the women to write a sentence or two describing a good woman. “I took the paintings, photography, handwritten words, and gouache illustrations and put together a book that I hope will instill strength in future generations of strong women,” she says.
Her one-room studio is located in Gray 1908 in St. Augustine, which is also home to Juniper Market. “The foot traffic alone is incredible.”
The walls are white, and the biggest space is still covered with the handwritten notes from her subjects. She installed it as a sort of wallpaper during the opening for the series. Boxes litter the floor, stacks of books ready to ship clutter shelves. “It’s not usually this messy,” she says. Alexander and her assistant are working on getting as many orders as they can out in time for Christmas. A vintage-looking dresser drawer houses her paints and brushes. The windows let ample light in, and the door stays open for visitors when she’s not so busy.
When Alexander was gathering women for the series, she originally told them she was only going to photograph the back of their head. But, she was afraid she might miss something. A few subjects she asked to turn around were caught off guard because they hadn’t put on makeup.
“I’m really glad I didn’t tell them I was photographing their face because I didn’t want something all made up and done. I wanted it to be true and raw and just about womanhood. We all know that womanhood is not glamorous all the time,” Alexander says.
You can see the Stripes and Buns paintings at Gray 1908 in St. Augustine. The book is available at jenna-alexander.com. Her next event is Evelyn’s Voice, a silent auction benefiting Girl Power 2 Cure, a nonprofit that raises money and awareness for Rett’s Syndrome. Alexander will be creating two or three large works to be donated to the auction. More information at evelynsvoice.com/hope.