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Art & Art History
University of Mississippi

Q&A with BFA Imaging Arts student Blythe Summers

Give Blythe a follow on Instagram @blythesphotos!

Introduce yourself and tell us where are you from?
My name is Blythe Summers and I’m from Madison, MS. I am a BFA Imaging Arts student and I’m currently in my thesis semester. 

What made you come to the University of Mississippi?
I always knew I was coming to Ole Miss. I come from a huge Ole Miss family. I actually came in undeclared and found my way to the art department. I really liked art and I was always big into art in high school. My parents were pushing more towards biology, but I took an art class my second semester, freshman year and I was like, “Yeah definitely not going to biology route, ha!”

What made you choose Imaging Arts as your concentration?
I was always into photography and I liked it in high school but I didn’t really dive into it until my freshman year at Ole Miss. Wildlife photography has always been my favorite even though that’s not what I focus on at all, but my love for the environment still shines through in my work. Photography was just a great way for me to make my passion an art form.

What type of artist do you consider yourself?
A landscape artist for sure. I’ve also been getting into portrait photography and combining that with the landscape.

Do you draw inspiration from other artists?
Right now, I’ve been looking into Orlane Paquet. She has a lot of interesting, creative landscapes with the human figure and that’s also what my focus is on this semester. I draw a lot of inspiration from that.

Could you talk a little about your process?
It is the cyanotype process and I work exclusively in it. It is a photogenic process where you can coat any object like fabric and paper in this, UV-sensitive chemical that allows me to use a digital negative and print on whatever material I want. I love it and it is interesting to put my hand back into the process because digital can get a little impersonal since the printer does almost everything for you. I like the cyanotype process because I am creating it and I coat everything how I want to.

What made you get into cyanotype?
I had no idea it existed until I took an alternative process class here and fell in love with it. I was like “Yup, I’m never doing anything else ever again!” It’s my favorite thing.

You received an award from Mississippi Collegiate Art Competition this year. Tell us about that.
I entered that the day it was due, so it was last minute. I entered that competition and wasn’t expecting anything, let alone to get accepted and win! So that was a great hurray right before my thesis. I was printing cyanotypes the day of because it was the first sunny day of the month. I couldn’t go and I knew I was going to win anything, then I got a text saying I won “Best in Show” and I didn’t know what to say. I was so excited!

What size was your winning piece?
That piece is around 42 by 63 inches. Same with my thesis work.

What can we expect from your thesis?
My thesis is a continuation from what I was doing in the forum. It is more intensive. I went into the idea of imagined worlds where Kudzu had taken over our landscapes due to environmental issues we are facing now and how that is affecting our landscapes now and in the future.

I noticed an installation a while back, can we expect any in your thesis?
Yes! I am doing a photogenic sculpture. The leaves that I made for my show cards will be incorporated and it will create a kudzu vine within the gallery and how it is taking over a small portion of the gallery.

Did you take advantage of any internships during your undergraduate career?
I interned with Dason Pettit last spring. I worked for the College of Liberal Arts and photographed any events happening on campus. It was really interesting because it made me photograph people more, because before that I used to avoid it at all costs! It was nice because now a lot of my work is photographing people so it indulged me in that and taught me a lot about commercial and event photography. Dason was a great teacher, easy to talk to, and easy to ask questions. He was always open to questions. If I didn’t know how to do something, he was there the whole time to mentor me.

Could you describe any good experiences here at the art department?
I love the Clicks. It is the Ole Miss photography club. I was the president for two years. It was great to see other people interested in the art department and we could include them in all the fun we have here in the department. It started before I got to Ole Miss but went on a short hiatus and we brought it back recently to get more people involved in photography. We’ll have a booth at the Student Union this spring. Follow our Instagram, @uofm_clicks for updates!

Which professor(s) inspired you the most?
100% Brooke White. Her work is incredible and she is an incredible teacher. She is always there to calm me down and prepare me because I think I come to her more stressed out then anyone in my life. She is always there to reassure me and always pushes me to creative work I never imagined I would be able to. The student I have become under her is incredible. Philip Jackson is also a great teacher. He taught me a lot about subtlety. He knows how to give you a small hint or push you in the right direction.

What class did you enjoy the most?
Alternative process. It introduced me to cyanotypes. It really opened my mind up to things that I didn’t know was possible in photography. It completely blew my mind.

What are your plans after graduation?
I really want to start selling my work and get it out there while looking for a job. My dream job would be working with wildlife photography. In the future, I’ll look into grad schools but I plan to take some time off.

Care to share some advice for incoming art students?
Open your mind up because I came in very close minded and thought I was going to one thing and ended up doing something completely different. I had no idea what I was in store for. So, I think having an open mind is important.

What are you listening to right now?
I’m listening to Rayland Baxter and Mac Miller.

Can we find you on social media?
Yes! My Instagram is @blythesphotos.

Are you binge watching anything?
I haven’t had any time because of my thesis but I’ll be binge watching the new season of Outlander once my thesis is over! I did finish the Witcher before entering my thesis semester.

Favorite hangout spot in Oxford?
Honestly, I love my apartment. I live at the Flamingo on the Square. It is the cutest and quirkiest little building in the world. I love nothing more than to sit on my couch at the Flamingo. It is the pink, green, and yellow building across from Chicken on a Stick.

Go-to restaurant in Oxford?
Handy Andy’s. I love their cheeseburgers!

Favorite time of the year in Oxford?
The spring for sure. Baseball season is my favorite time of the year and Double Decker because the weather is nice. The temperature isn’t over 100 degrees!

Interviewer: Frank Estrada | Photographer: Olivia Whittington