Foothill College's Student News Publication

The Foothill Script

Foothill College's Student News Publication

The Foothill Script

Foothill College's Student News Publication

The Foothill Script

Spring Exhibition – The Red Purse: A Story of Grief and Desire

Lynx Coleman
Jackie pictured talking about her inspiration and objective for her project “The Red Purse”.

The Spring photography exhibition was lucky enough to feature Jacque Rupp exhibiting her new book The Red Purse: A Story of Grief and Desire. The solo exhibition and book signing event took place on Friday, April 19, in the KCI (Krause Center for Innovation) Gallery. Additionally, a Virtual Artist Talk was held on Wednesday, May 22, where Rupp gave insight behind her book. Both events were hosted by our very own Judith Walgren with the Photography Department. 

I’ll admit, upon first walking into the exhibition I was met by the energy of, and frankly intimidated by, the ferociously confident and accomplished woman that is Jacque (Jackie) Rupp. Watching her navigate the room effortlessly, chatting vicariously with the many individuals who had come to view her work, you wouldn’t guess that her project focused so heavily on the topic of navigating grief. However, this only emphasizes the idea in her work of finding “that grieving and living were not mutually exclusive.” Several of Jackie’s most striking photos were on display, taken from her newest project, a photo book with 60 photographs entitled The Red Purse. This project focuses on the reclamation of Rupp’s identity, as a woman and otherwise, after losing her husband to cancer, tackling the navigation of loss and desire in widowhood. 

Citing herself as a visual storyteller, The Red Purse effortlessly intertwines Jackie’s two main genres of photography, documentary and fine arts. The book offers a visually captivating series of images that utilize personal experiences to address social issues surrounding womanhood, widowhood, sexuality, loss, and identity. The book is a partly fictional visual narrative, focusing on a narrative about navigating the juxtaposition of grief and desire that many experience after losing a partner. Jackie’s love of film shines through in this series, with her seemingly effortless cinematic flair and use of metaphors in her imagery. 

Jackie ultimately wanted to tackle that in losing someone, nothing about the experience is straightforward and wanted to create a piece that resonated with others. She intended to provide solace to those like herself who felt alone in their experience of widowhood, as there is little to no discussion of rediscovering one’s sexuality after losing a spouse, for women in particular. This extends to all who have lost someone close to them, with Jackie stating that she ultimately wanted people to “think about it in ways that relate to your own experience with loss and more importantly about reimagining a new life and rebuilding.”

Lynx Coleman
The red purse that served as inspiration for the title, along with several other red items featured in the book.

As for the photographs themselves, Jackie began photographing herself out of sheer necessity at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, due to lockdowns. Her first attempts at self-portraiture were born out of this, and she cites it being a natural extension of the self-reflection spurred on for many by the pandemic. This organic formation encases the entire project, as Jackie began pulling pieces together only to discover they held great symbolism, and decided to elaborate. As part of her process, Jackie interviewed many widows, widowers, and their children, from various cultures, to fully capture the experience of grief. Finding a great deal of reassurance so many years later in listening to others, particularly women’s, similar experiences was extremely healing for Jackie. As for the title, the real red purse came into Jackie’s possession shortly after her husband passed, only to sit on her dresser untouched for years. She later came to find that it represented her new desires as a woman, something different, frivolous, impractical, feminine, and something that eventually helped her to move forward. Furthermore the color red became integral to the book due to the duality of its symbolism, representing sacrifice, danger, power, sexuality, and passion, all explored in her cinematic narrative. 

Metaphors overall became a hallmark of this project, stating in her artist talk, “I photographed what I was drawn to and kind of analyzed it later,” revealing her natural ability to capture meaning in her cinematic scenes. An example of this is the use of thresholds and staircases, influenced by their frequent use in Hitchcock films, symbolizing a journey or a decision. This symbolism alludes to the heavy influence of film noir and cinematic style throughout the project and Jackie’s work as a whole. It also likely explains why Jackie was drawn to locations that gave a 50’s and 60’s feel to the photograph. As for actually capturing the shots themselves, Jackie regularly carried a tripod, her camera, and a bag of costumes, just in case she came across the perfect lighting and set. Despite the nonlinear approach to her work, Jackie’s series of photos invoke a great deal of emotional cohesion and tone, representative of her dedication to the creation of genuine photography. 

Jackie is an incredibly accomplished woman, not only as a documentary and fine arts photographer but also in the tech world with a career spanning 35 years. This involved her taking on the role of the first woman to occupy many executive roles. Based in the Bay Area after growing up in Upstate New York, Jackie has a robust education with an MBA from Santa Clara University and studying Photography at Stanford University, LA Center of Photography, and the Santa Fe Workshops. She has additional involvement in the art world as a member of the advisory board for UNAFF (United Nations Affiliated Film Festival) a documentary film festival. 

She is also on the board of the Weston Collective, a nonprofit aiming to expand student access to photography. Her most notable project, before The Red Purse, was a documentary series on the farmers in the Salinas Valley, titled The Unseen, receiving collaboration from previously exhibited Mark Tuschman. Among other awards, Jackie was also selected as a Critical Mass finalist in both 2022 and 2023. Although not officially working on a new project, Jackie hopes to address ageism more directly in her future project, as she found that to be a recurring theme in The Red Purse. Check out her other work on her website, and access her Virtual Artist Talk where she goes even more in-depth behind who she is and her work as an artist! Please see the exhibition in the KCI if you can, only open until June 14th!

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About the Contributor
Vivian Hanna
Vivian Hanna, Photography Editor
Vivian (she/they) is a second-year student at Foothill, working on transferring to UC Santa Cruz to pursue a Sociology degree. After taking an Intro to Photo class with award-winning Photojournalist and Foothill professor Judith Walgren, her interest in Photojournalism was sparked. With a focus on social documentary and wildlife/nature photography, Vivian hopes to document subjects and topics often overlooked. With the integration of photography into her status multidisciplinary artist, they also hope to increase coverage of the often-overlooked art department here at Foothill!

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    Judith Walgren
    Jun 3, 2024 at 4:40 pm

    Thanks for covering the opening! Great story and photos!