• SPE Blog interview

    Glowing Wavelengths In Between

    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.


  • Opening at SPE National

    The Society for Photographic Education (SPE) opens a new series of exhibitions with “Your White Light” by photographer Sonja Thomsen. The exhibition opens Saturday, December 12 from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, and runs through March 28, 2016. This exhibition features photographs, sculpture and a site-specific installation. Thomsen will present an artist talk preceding the reception December 12 from 5:00 to 6:00 pm.

  • The Annual, an exhibition of New Chicago Art

    THE ANNUAL: An Exhibition of New Chicago Art
    September 18-20, 2015

    Taking place during EXPO ART WEEK, The Annual is a yearly sales exhibition celebrating cutting-edge Chicago-based artists. Arranged by two guest curators, The Annual creates an accessible forum for emerging collectors to discover affordable new work and engage directly with its creators.  Claudine Isé and Alexandria Eregbu are the curators for the inaugural presentation of The Annual.

    2015 Exhibiting ArtistsAlfredo Salazar-CaroKiam Marcelo JunioMacon ReedMichelle Anne Harris
    Noël MoricalSusy BielakAlejandro Figueredo Diaz-PereraChelsea Culp, Danielle DobiesJean Alexander FraterJeroen NelemansNeha VedpathakPhaedra CallSherwin OvidBryan VoltaAnna Martine WhiteheadDavid AlekhuogieDanny GilesKrista FranklinEsau McGheeJohana MoscosoSonja ThomsenMeg Leary and Sarah Beth Woods.

  • ADDS DONNA opening September 11

    Mana Satellite / ADDS DONNA presents...
    Moonlight Sleeping on a Midnight Lake

    Molly Brandt, Karolina Gnatowski, Jacob Goudreault, Matt Morris, Soo Shin, Sonja Thomsen, and Erin Washington. 

    September 11 - November 8, 2015
    Opening reception Friday, September 11 from 6 - 9 pm, MANA Comtemporary Chicago, 2233 S. Throop Suite 6116

    So often as artists we’re asked to explain our work in such unequivocal terms as to eliminate any chance for interpretation. Opportunities in all shapes and sizes, from grants to exhibitions seem to be doled out based on how neatly we pack ourselves into the appropriate boxes. Moonlight Sleeping on a Midnight Lake is a collection of works by artists whose abstruse tendencies push against such constrictions. Though varying widely in media and content, each use obscurity or even modesty as a strategy of resistance to the usual demands for our attention. They do not offer a standardized black and white answer to their work, but instead are comfortable with elements of ambiguity, uncertainty and doubt - challenging not only the marketable individualism of the commercial art world, but also the benevolent didacticism of the institution. 

    Open by appointment and for the following public events;

    Saturday & Sunday, October 3 & 4, 12 - 4 pm Mana Open house public reception, in partnership with the Chicago Architecture Biennial

    Saturday, October 17, 11 am - 4 pm Open House Chicago
    Sunday, November 8, 11:30 - 4:30 pm Chicago Humanities Festival

  • Review: Photography Sees the Surface

    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.