Posted on

Exploring the Magic of Cyanotypes with Nydia Blas

We absolutely love the magical photographs that Nydia Blas created during her two-week winter residency in the Penland photo studio. This work was made with cyanotype photography, a technique that involves laying an object on paper coated with a solution of iron salts before exposing it to UV light and washing with water to create white and Prussian blue images. Nydia first explored cyanotyoes at Penland with instructor Tokie Rome-Taylor and was eager to go deeper with the medium and to seek inspiration in the landscape of the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

Nydia was kind enough to share some of the highlights of her residency with us:

Work by Nydia Blas, finished at Penland

What was your intention for your two week residency in the Penland photo studio?

My plan was to gain a better understanding of the cyanotype process. I began making cyanotypes at Penland in the Summer of 2023 when I took a class with Tokie Rome-Taylor. I loved working with my hands, playing, and returning to an idea over and over again. My plan for the residency was to make cyanotypes rooted in magical realism using appropriated images, my own photographs and items from nature. I also wanted to play around with adorning completed cyanotypes with watercolors, beads, etc.

Digital negatives used in Nydia’s work

We love your beautiful cyanotypes! Can you tell us a little bit about this work?

The work begins with Penland, because I think it’s a magical place and I was drawn to the land from the first time I visited. I knew what I wanted to do but I wasn’t sure of the specifics.  I work very intuitively and I spent my first day connecting to the land and gathering messages about the direction of the work. I had a dream about a snake and I started there, sourcing a snake image online and using a photograph from a previous body of work. And from there that is how my process went. I made digital negatives, cut them out by hand and made collages on cyanotype paper and exposed them in light boxes. Outerspace, the moon, the sun, deer, hawk, and the butterfly make appearances. I often work backwards to create meaning, thus more will unfold as I keep looking and reflecting.

What was your Penland Winter Residency experience like?

My experience was great! I am from New York but have lived in Atlanta for five years, that being said it was so cold and I have never driven in the snow. But, the love and warmth of the people, food, and interactions at Penland made up for that. It was the first time in a while that I got to just play and have fun making things with my hands. Sometimes, I think we forget that at the core, our art practice should be FUN. I made some great connections with new people and it was lovely to see familiar faces again. I enjoy seeing what everybody was working on at the end of the two weeks.

What’s next?

I just began the Spring semester at Spelman College where I teach photography, so I am looking forward to connecting, inspiring and learning from my students. I am working on my third book of photography, which I am super excited about. When it gets a bit warmer, I will begin working on a new body of work about Atlanta, Georgia. Besides that some rest, reading, writing, and self-care/love/healing.

Nydia Blas is a 2024 Penland Winter Residency Distinguished Fellow, one of eleven individuals receiving an award to attend the residency at no cost and with the support of a stipend, made possible with support from the NEA. Discover more of her work HERE.

Thank you so much, Nydia, for sharing your practice with us!

Nydia Blas
2024 Penland Winter Residency Distinguished Fellow

Posted on

Poetic Portraits with Richard Tuschman

During our spring short session, Richard Tuschman led a wonderful photography workshop in the Penland photo studio. Lasting four days, the workshop produced some astounding results. The weather was perfect and many of the students in the workshop made perfect subjects.

Students of all ages and levels explored expressive elements of composition, color, gesture, environment, and both studio and natural lighting.

A fine art photographer, Richard Tuschman focuses on creating cinematic, open-ended photographic narratives that explore the complexities and emotional nuances of human relationships.

Want to take a photography workshop at Penland? Check out our upcoming workshops HERE.

We hope you enjoy this visual feast of some of the work produced during the workshop:

Posted on

Featured Auction Artist: James Henkel

James Henkel first came to Penland in 1971 with a scholarship that, he says, made him “a photography student and a proud dishwasher.” Since then he has served as studio assistant, core student, resident artist, faculty, and neighbor. At Penland he met Debra Frasier, his wife of 37 years. In 1991 they bought a small cabin near the school where they began spending summers. And their daughter, Calla, now an artist working in Berlin, was a founding member of Penland Kid’s Camp. “That one act of generosity— a Penland scholarship in 1971—has nourished me artistically for fifty years,” Jim said.

“My work begins with finding and collecting objects. These curiosities are then used to generate pictures that touch on the relationship between our ideas about beauty, function, and the meaning of objects in our lives. With the choice of an object for a photograph, I am leaning into a sense of shared familiarity with the viewer, but changing the perspective by introducing the unexpected within the frame.”

Jim is professor emeritus at University of Minnesota and a long-time Penland instructor. He now lives between Asheville and his Penland house/studio.

Learn more about Jim and his work in the short video above.