© Christina Z. Anderson
Out of the Blue: Explorations in Cyanotype
August 6–August 27, 2016
Artists’ reception on Saturday, August 6, from 5–7pm.
Manchester, CT 06040
PhotoSynthesis, in mounting a show dedicated to the mystery and magic of the cyanotype, is presenting something special. Historically overlooked as an artistic process, cyanotype was seen in the 19th century as an inexpensive photographic proofing method or as a mechanical means of copying a handmade original, such as architectural drawings, which then became known as “blue prints.” The monochromatic blue was thought to be off-putting and artificial. During the 20th century revival of handmade photo processes, the iron-based cyanotype was considered inferior when compared with other early photo techniques based on platinum, palladium, and silver. Sometimes the lowly cyanotype served as a hidden foundation for other processes such as gum bichromate or palladium. Even today cyanotype is dismissed as simple and is used as a low cost/low-tech introduction to hand-made photography for children and beginning students. And yet – in the words of jazz musician Thelonious Monk – “Simple ain’t easy.”
Happily, 2016 seems to be the year of the cyanotype. Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA mountedCyanotypes: Photography’s Blue Period, the first–ever museum exhibition devoted to the cyanotype, ranging from Anna Atkins’ 1843 photograms of British sea algae to images and objects made by contemporary artists. PhotoSynthesis is on trend in its celebration of the cyanotype.
As a longtime practitioner and teacher of cyanotype myself, I was excited to see the range of work submitted for this show. Cyanotype easily yields high contrast graphic images, but, with effort, is also capable of delicately nuanced tones of blue. I looked for work by artists who combined the evocative blues of cyanotype with an imaginative array of materials in order to express their ideas. Artists printed on fabric, found papers, and egg shells. They combined cyanotype with sewing, and collage to make artist books and 3-D objects. Some artists printed with digital, lens-based or pinhole negatives. Others worked without cameras, using found objects to make photograms. Some simply painted cyanotype solution onto paper and did away with negatives entirely.
I chose work that engaged me, that rewarded deeper looking. I sought out work that told me something new about cyanotype and how its limitless shades of blue could be relevant to artists and viewers in the 21st century. I was looking for, and found, work that could take me somewhere that only a cyanotype can take me.
Thank you to Chris Huestis for the privilege of choosing the work for exhibition in Out of the Blue: Explorations in Cyanotype at PhotoSynthesis. And thank you to all the artists who shared their cyanotyped images and objects with me.
–Jesseca Ferguson // museumofmemory.com