"...This strange, liminal quality is central to the installation, where materials flicker in and out of view, and MMoCA itself becomes a shifting, dynamic space, begging to be explored..."-
Listen to Mariela Sancari and I discuss her exhibition at The Pitch Project here on Milwaukee's Public Radio station WUWM.
"...The last five years have been really fruitful for my work and research. One of my first sculptural pieces, “trace of possibility,” launched a newfound freedom to embrace abstraction, obsess about light, and make space for my fascination with science (and now math.) I sketch with my iPhone and scanner a lot. I work in a cyclical way, usually starting with an image, then constructing, exploring materials, printing, constructing, reshooting. I think about most everything as an experiment and then the site specificity drives decisions on form."
Posted on 03/21/16 by SPE National Office Staff
SPE exhibiting artist, Sonja Thomsen, discusses the beginnings of her project "Glowing Wavelengths In Between" and the ideologies that permiate her work and practice. Sonja writes...
It was such a pleasure to put together the exhibition at SPE National – it feels like a homecoming of sorts since SPE was consequential to the beginnings of this work.
In 2013, I spoke during SPE’s 50th Annual National Conference in Chicago, IL. That lecture led to a series of conversations that landed me an invitation to the Digital Artist in Residence at Columbia College, and ultimately awarded me the space to experiment and develop the work that is now on exhibit at SPE’s National Office in Cleveland, Ohio. Think of it as a Midwestern incubator of sorts. The work has become an evolving collection of photographs, reflective materials, and faceted sculptures that engage our perception of light and wonder. This collection is titled “Glowing Wavelengths In Between.”
The installation choreographs how one moves through the space, reflecting, and refracting around image and form, light, and illusion. I am interested in exploring knowledge creation in the spaces between seemingly opposing kinds of concepts: weight/lightness, micro/macro, fleeting/fixed, part/whole, mind/body, and self/other. Is it possible to perceive the trajectory, to trace between a source and where it lands?
I wanted to use the exhibition “Your White Light,” at SPE’s National Office, as an opportunity to focus on the prismatic, the rectangular, and the rhombus. The installation fixes and manipulates one’s experience of light itself. There are three areas in the gallery, and within each space the installation is structured around mirroring the photographic space in the architectural space. I wanted to implicate the viewer with the title, pointing to the individuality of our perceptions. I am interested in this visual and visceral experience constructing an embodied knowledge.
I have been thinking recently about a conversation I heard with artist Ann Hamilton, for two reasons. One, she talks comprehensively about embodied knowledge in her practice. I value the knowledge manifested in the body as well as the mind. This has me recalling Moholy Nagy’s Vision in Motion, “to learn to see and feel in relationship.” This simultaneous comprehension is something I seek to embrace. Secondly, Hamilton frames her making, her teaching, and her mothering as one united practice. I am modeling that way of thinking in my own practice – to see things as a part of a collective whole rather than at odds with one another. My time in the studio, with my students, or with my children, all feed my research on wonder and perception, and allow me to create from a place of curiosity, discovery, and delight.
One of the earlier pieces in the show, “power of ten,” pictures a folded image of the epilogue (titled Reading the Rainbow) from the book The Powers of Ten, the relative size of things in the universe by Charles and Ray Eames. I think of this photograph and its found poem as an artist statement of sorts. Here, in the Eames work, design, art, science and family merge. I am interested in the intersections of these axes and what happens when they fold in on themselves. I am grateful for the space to improvise in the gallery and that SPE National allowed me to unfold some these ideas.
Sonja’s exhibition “Your White Light” will be on view at the SPE National Office through March 28, 2016. An environmental installation, “In Orbit,” furthered by her exhibition at SPE National, will be on view at the John Michael Kohler Art Center's Glass Gallery up in Sheboygan WI, April 2 through October 2016.
Sonja Thomsen is an SPE member and Milwaukee-based artist. Starting her career as a student of science, Thomsen later earned an MFA in photography at the San Francisco Art Institute (2004). She has exhibited with Higher Pictures, DePaul Art Museum, Center for Photography at Woodstock, the Reykjavik Museum of Photography, New Mexico Museum of Art, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Galerie f5.6 in Munich, among others. Sonja Thomsen is a member of the international photography collective Piece of Cake – POC, the co-director of The Pitch Project, and is a Lecturer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Collector Daily Reviews exhibition at Higher Pictures
The portraits and human forms on view are varyingly obscured. Ellen Carey multiplies her own face into a kaleidoscope of fractured fragments. Jackie Furtado and Eileen Mueller block their subjects’ faces with shadows and hands, while Whitney Hubbs’ self-portrait falls below the surface of the water. Sonja Thomsen peels away the bodies in her image, literally lifting the emulsion off and leaving behind white ghosts, while Ann Hamilton goes outside in, making her mouth a pinhole camera and using the closing of her lips as the shutter.
"Sonja Thomsen's perceptual holiday at the DePaul Museum of Art, where pure optical phenomena made magic just for the wonder of it..." - Lori Waxman
The SFist To-Do List: 12 Cool Things To Check Out This Week... photography opening Sonja Thomsen at Rayko Photo Center
"...And last but not least in this group of fearless women is Sonja Thomsen, a Milwaukee-based artist whose multifaceted practice combines photography, sculpture, interactive installation and site-specific public art to create spaces reflective of our own perceptions and potential. Since earning an MFA in photography from the San Francisco Art Institute (2004), her work has evolved in myriad ways. In her practice, she has become more and more concerned with space and our perceptions of one’s own scale in a space. An attempt to make “the space between” perceptible. Thomsen has been working with the specifics of materiality in her practice and continues to be fascinated with the dichotomy of the emulsion and paper, one holding the illusion of depth in its glossy shadows and the other the matte fibers of form. The Effaced Polaroid series is one of many projects that Thomsen is currently developing. These pieces are made in the “in between” moments of her larger studio practice. A quick peel that feels gestural and unpredictable. The defacing of the Polaroid, a one-of-a-kind photograph feels right- one-offs – Serendipity is at play. Thomsen is also interested in how the peeled figure disrupts the scene – a push/pull happens as the underlayer of the photograph is revealed on the surface. The origin of the Polaroids is from her archive – snapshots of friends and family- used as raw material for experimentation..."
Listening to Mitchell Coverage:
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel preview, May 21
- OnMilwaukee, May 31
- Shepherd Express, June 10
- Urban Milwaukee Dial, June 25
- Milwaukee Magazine, Events, July issue
- Lake Effect, interview aired July 11
- Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, July 16
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel review, July 18
- RadioMilwaukee, August 1
- Systems Integration Asia
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel mention, August 8
- Wisconsin Gazette, August 22
- Arup Connect, August 22
Excerpt from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sunday review: ‘Listening to Mitchell” captures sounds, images of a Milwaukee thoroughfare.
"... All of these voices are knit together in a way that has more of a point of view than is at first apparent, a subtle perspective about the commonalities among divergent voices. These are people who feel a sense of ownership over their neighborhood and memories of it, such as the homemade roller rink or the all-you-can-eat chicken lunch at Goldmann’s. Even the ambient sounds — the church, bicycle andpaleta food cart bells, for instance — are married in a way that draws our attention in poetic ways.
Despite this subtle working of the material, the sound installation is also raucous and chaotic at times, with voices in competition with each other. Not unlike the clanging, look-at-me nature of the ads outside (even the church has a blinking digital sign!), this seems a fitting response to the nature of the place. Voices do compete.
Stepping outside of the immersive installation and back onto the street, I found certain sounds turned my head in a way they hadn’t beforehand. “Listening to Mitchell” has attuned me to this place and articulated something about its diversity, and by that measure, the project is wonderfully successful..."
- Mary Louise Schumacher, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Art Critic
Collaborator Adam Carr and I discuss "Listening to Mitchell" with Bonnie North on Lake Effect, aired on July 11, 2014