“Shortly after my husband died, I bought a red purse, which sat on my dresser for years. I knew I had to have it, but I did not know why. I never used it. I see now it was a reminder of what I needed in my life as a woman; something feminine, frivolous, and out of character. It gave me permission to reimagine who I could become. —Jacque Rupp.

Like many photographers, Jacque Rupp photographs objects that capture her attention or, perhaps, a memory escaping. In the case of her new book, “The Red Purse,” she works with that escaped memory and creates a memorable portfolio of something gained and never used. How many of us have done just that?

“Shortly after my husband died, I bought a red purse. I knew I needed it, but I didn’t know why. For years, the purse sat untouched on my dresser, waiting for me to take up its call,” Rupp writes in the introduction to the book.

I met her at a recent Review Santa Fe and was impressed by her forthrightness and belief in the new project she had just completed. I can only imagine how tiring it must have been for her to have already sat in front of several other reviewers that same day and go through the same pitch back and forth.

When she sat in front of me, I knew she was not to be denied. She wasn’t! After about 5 minutes, I was in—and I told her I wanted to publish a review of the book in Shadow & Light Magazine. I am always thrilled at the reaction of artists when they sit across from me and find out about a soon-to-be-published portfolio of their work. It keeps me going.

She was also very prepared for the task as she knew she had to “knock it out of the park” each and every presentation. Bright and colorful post cards, and other marketing material lay strewn across my table.

Jacque Rupp-The Red Purse-review“’The Red Purse’ is Rupp’s striking visual exploration of the reclaiming of her identity after the passing of her husband. She confronts head on widowhood, death, and ageism in an authentic and at times humorous manner. Using herself as the subject, the color photographs in the book have a film-noir narrative element in their composition. This approach stretches the autobiographical to fictional through storytelling devices of symbols, metaphors, and moods. The recurring color red, rose imagery, and the purse, to name a few, contribute to this sensibility.” (Publisher’s comment)

The images in the book, ask viewers to take a moment and think about times when they were saddened by the loss of a loved one. How did they feel? How deep was their grief? How long did they grieve? How long is too long?

In an interview with the author in the book, photographer Elinor Carucci writes, “The honesty in the sexuality, femininity, identity, and those types of feelings, surprised me, challenged me. Even being a feminist, liberal and open-minded, I was surprised by the conversations we had and are still having about women’s issues: widowhood, ageism, sexuality, identity, and feminism. You challenged what it means to be a widow, to be sexual at an older age. I felt connected, inspired.”

No punches are pulled. The sheets are drawn back, revealing long-hidden secrets, some good; some not so good. They are all (mostly) revealed within the covers of a book that was a long time coming. Or, perhaps, it arrived at just the right time, when there is so much struggle with women’s rights. Rupp compares her feelings with her mother’s, whose husband died young, forcing her into a different kind of grieving, one in which she had to retreat into her own grief and keep her desires hidden.

Jacque Rupp-The Red Purse-reviewAs an emblem, totem, if you will, the red purse served to keep Rupp going, allowing her to proceed to the future instead of receding into the past.

“From early on in the grieving process,” she writes in the Introduction, “one thing was certain: I did not want to raise my boys under a shroud of loss. I did not want people to pity us. I would, however difficult, press forward, using the confusion, the liminality, as an opportunity to grow.”

That growth was evident as she sat across from me, with dozens of people all around us buzzing about their lives, caught up in their own dramas (some positive—some not). I listened and a was not saddened. I was enlivened by her positivity and resolve. I hope you are, too, when you order your copy.

To order: www.jacquerupp.com