I'm not sure how I came across the work of Sonja Thomsen. The credit most likely goes to some brilliant blogger. Every time we get a 'yes' on an interview request, all of us at Nymphoto are psyched. We think of it like a gift from the artist and each time, without fail, we discover another outstanding person & artist. And this week is no different.
Sonja Thomsen has a passion for teaching and comes from an socially engaged & culturally aware family. Like many artist she cares about nature and people. Theology and biology interest her both. Her interest & curiosity manifests in her imagery. Sonja Thomsen's work is beautiful, complex and straightforward -- simultaneously, just like life.
Nymphoto: Tell us about yourself:
Sonja Thomsen:About me -- Just turned 30 and I am currently living and teaching in
the San Francisco Art Institute, completing a post baccalaureate certificate and my MFA. In grad school I began to pay more attention to water - at the oceans edge, in the dense
I am an adjunct faculty at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design teaching photography to undergraduate students and in adult education, www.miad.edu. I am passionate about teaching, feeling fortunate to have the opportunity to talk about art making everyday.
The community that I was a part of in
NP: What inspires you?
ST:Inspiration --My family – my grandmother would take me to the museum as often as possible, my aunt was the one who introduced me to photography in middle school, my parents who are unfailingly supportive, my grandfather the theologian, my husband who is passionate about justice and is an incredible humanitarian and the artists in my family.
My peers, I have had the opportunity of working with some very talented artists Lex Thompson, Daniel Cox, Cristina Sitja Rubio, Justine Reyes, Eirik
Hambrecht, Jason Nanna, Kristina Wong, and Jason Yi.
Listening to: Art Farmer, Cat Powers, Bon Iver, Angelique Kidjo, Bright Eyes, Sigor Ros.
Looking at: Roni Horn, Harry Callahan, Felix Gonzalez Torres, Masao Yamamoto, James Turrell and Jason Fulford.
Thinking about: World Religions and Biological Science, Charles and Ray Eames’ Power of Ten.
NP: How did you find Photography?
It was in high school that I caught the photography bug. I fell in love with the film, the chemistry, the darkness and my 35mm Konica. Richard Zutz was the photography teacher, demanding, supportive and pushed you further. I spent as much
time as I could in the darkroom senior year.
At Kenyon, I studied with Greg Spaid and worked as his TA. Hours spent organizing his slide library began my love affair with images and the desire to learn more about the image-makers.
My time in
ridiculous but the landscape, the politics, the spiritual consciousness of that city
had an incredible impact on me. I was fortunate to study with incredible faculty such as Linda Connor, Jack Fulton, Henry Wessel, Regan Louie, J.
NP: How do projects come about?
ST: They start from somewhere personal – a recent incident, a loss, a fear, a curiosity – and that inevitably leads me to the land. Looking at elements like water and oil, natural substances that are elusive and whose form is ephemeral, to
reference the transitory, the unknown, and the personal is political.
The piece entitled surface began at the end of graduate school. I had just finished a piece inspired by recent research at the Monterey Aquarium resulting in the statement “a milliliter of water is more complex (genetically) than the human genome. The density of microorganisms living in a milliliter of water was mind blowing; the micro/macro relationship made me reconsidering the “Power of ten” and Zen Buddhist philosophy of nothingness. When creating the photographs I was interested in seeing
flatness and suggesting depth. I was interested in the metaphor of what lies beneath the surface. Shooting down at the water was an interesting way for me to obscure scale in my images so that the photographs themselves push the macro/micro. I have since continued to look at water and more recently oil. In the past two and half years I have been exploring oil through a variety of works: crude, petroleum, hole, and oil self-portrait. These pieces examine the oil most immediate in daily life,
used motor oil.
The current piece entitled lacuna is an installation of images I have collected over the past four year. Images of family and curious landscapes create an emotive
sequence. The word lacuna can refer to a gap in literature as well as a small cavity in bone. I was fascinated in the words reference to what is missing/empty in knowledge and the physical body. The groupings of photographs in lacuna reference physical gaps in the landscape as well as reference gaps in the personal narrative.
NP: What is next?
ST:I am currently preparing for an exhibition at the Haggerty Museum of Art in
I head back to
My lacuna work is featured in the multimedia project Pause to Begin, www.pausetobegin.com. The exhibition of the 15 participating photographers will travel in 2009 starting with the exhibition in
NP: Thank you so much!
To see more of Sonja's work please head to www.sonjathomsen.com.