Alayna N. Pernell (b. 1996) is an interdisciplinary artist, researcher, and educator from Alabama. In May 2019, she graduated from The University of Alabama where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art with a concentration in Photography and a minor in African American Studies. She received her MFA in Photography from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in May 2021. Pernell’s practice considers the gravity of the mental well-being of Black people concerning the physical and metaphorical spaces they inhabit. Her work has been exhibited in various cities across the United States, including FLXST Contemporary (Chicago, IL), Refraction Gallery (Milwaukee, WI), JKC Gallery (Trenton, NJ), RUSCHWOMAN Gallery (Chicago, IL), and more.

Pernell was named the 2020-2021 recipient of the James Weinstein Memorial Award by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago Department of Photography and the 2021 Snider Prize award recipient by the Museum of Contemporary Photography. She was also recognized on the Silver Eye Center of Photography 2022 Silver List, Photolucida’s 2021 Critical Mass Top 50, 2021 Lenscratch Student Prize Honorable Mention, Ground Floor Contemporary (Birmingham, AL), and more. She is currently the Associate Lecture of Photography and Imaging at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Mediums: Photography, writing 

Favorite Artist Tools: Camera, felt-tip pen

Go-to Local Inspiration: Wherever the art is … 

Mentee Compliment: Katie = kind, thoughtful, and one of the most genuinely best friends I’ve ever had. Added bonus: great taste in music + movies/shows. 

Fun Fact: I won an ’80s music trivia medal on a cruise last summer.

Serious Fact: I have several medical conditions and food restrictions/allergies, hence I don’t eat out as much because it’s too embarrassing and stressful for me to pick around a menu that isn’t always suitable for what I can eat.

Artist Statement

Through reflecting on the past in the context of the present, I consider the gravity of the mental well-being of Black women in relation to the spaces we inhabit, whether physically or metaphorically. Utilizing a compilation of photography, constructed text, archival materials, and sound, I unearth how Black American women are impacted by visible and (in)visible injustices stemming from reflections on personal and familial memories and research on contemporary and historically shared experiences. By examining the harsh realities and complexities of Black American women, I simultaneously create space for productive dialogue by enacting an ethic of care, respect, and grace.