The following post is a photo slideshow. If you’re looking at it in email, we recommend viewing it on the blog.
Between seven concentrations and nine 1-week workshops, we’ve had a busy spring at Penland. It’s been exciting to see the progress that long classes make, whether it’s transforming straight beams into a fully-realized timber frame structure or collecting plant material to make into paper to make into books. Scroll through the photos above to get a glimpse of the colorful, experimental, detailed, thoughtful, beautiful things underway in the studios. And, if you’re in the area, please join us on May 5th at 8pm to celebrate the end of the session at the scholarship auction in Northlight!
“Photography is not like painting. There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative.”
—Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1957
Although darkroom photography is no longer part of many high school art programs, photography itself is more prevalent than ever. These days, most high school students walk around with camera phones in their back pockets, and snapping photos is almost second nature. As a visiting artist at Mitchell High School in Spruce Pine, NC, Mercedes Jelinek’s goal was to show students that these photos could be more than just a way to record and share—they could be a form of creative expression.
“Photos can mean a lot more than just representing likeness,” Mercedes tells her students at the beginning of class on a Wednesday morning. The students are seated in bright yellow chairs around a projector in Jennifer Robinson’s Art 1 class. On the screen, Mercedes is advancing through portraits they took of each other yesterday, each original photograph shown next to an edited version. “What makes this one so good?” she asks. Her students respond with their thoughts about composition, lighting, framing. Despite being taken with simple cellphone cameras, the photos do look good—really good. There’s personality coming through in each one.
As a resident artist here at Penland, Mercedes has years of professional photography experience—both film and digital—to share with her students. Her three-day visit to Mitchell High was part of the Professional Craft Study for High School Students, one of Penland’s Community Collaborations programs to bring creative experiences to students in the surrounding counties. During her lessons, Mercedes started with basics such as camera controls and simple editing, but her students were soon talking about how to interact with subjects to make them comfortable and relaxed and how to set up a shot to lead the viewer’s eye.
On her final day of teaching, Mercedes used the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson as an inspiration for her students. Cartier-Bresson is known for The Decisive Moment, a book of black-and-white street photography. “To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression,” he wrote.
In asking her students to take photographs of “decisive moments” as their final assignment, Mercedes enabled them to bring together the technical concepts they had practiced such as lighting and exposure time with their own view of the world. “Go set up the shot absolutely perfectly, then have somebody walk through it,” she instructed them. “You decide the perfect moment to take your shot.”
There was nothing uncommon about the laughter that followed, or the knots of two or three teens talking in groups, or the students wandering on the grassy stretch in front of the school. What was uncommon was the particular care and attention taken to document it all.
All of Penland’s Community Collaborations programs are funded by grants and donations. The Professional Craft Study for High School Students is able to bring artists like Mercedes to Mitchell High School thanks to the generous support of the Samuel L. Phillips Family Foundation Education Partnership Endowment.
Instructor Raivo Vihman (left) and studio assistant Tom Shields (right) with some very long timbers they are preparing as part of the spring Concentration in wood, which is building a small timber-frame building on campus.
After more than a year of renovation and new construction, Penland’s venerable old Horner Hall, home to the Penland Gallery, is fully functioning again. This is the front of the building with the newly-installed sculpture, New Growth, by former Penland resident artist Hoss Haley.
Much of the building was gutted, the floor plan was altered, and all the spaces were completely renovated.
A new exhibition hall and a courtyard were added to the North side of the building.
The second floor, which had been used for student housing for many decades, was refashioned into staff offices.
The building reopened in mid-March, just in time for the opening of the first scheduled Penland Gallery exhibition, This is a Photograph, curated by artist, photographer, and long-time Penland instructor Dan Estabrook (at left, with glasses).
The gallery walls and pedestals (custom-built by former Penland resident artist Daniel Marinelli) are covered with beautiful work, and we hope you’ll come visit. The gallery is open Tuesday – Saturday from 10:00 – 5:00 and Sunday from Noon – 5:00. Closed Mondays. Lots more gallery information here.
Here is a time-lapse sequence of Hoss Haley and crew assembling New Growth on March 25.