Sonja Thomsen

RayKo Photo Center is pleased to announce the opening of Sonja Thomsen’s site-specific installation, You’ll Find it Where It Is. Thomsen is using this show as an opportunity to pull and tease out one part of the larger Glowing Wavelengths In Between exhibition that was featured at the DePaul Art Museum in Chicago earlier this year. Glowing Wavelengths in Between is, in the artist’s words, “a rumination on the very physicality of seeing.” In the words of Gregory Harris, curator at the DPAM, “Sonja Thomsen’s photographs and installations create a tangible means to experience the ephemeral qualities of light, recalibrating our perceptions of the visible world. Her photographic and installation work springs from extensive studio-based experimentation with optical phenomena and from research on philosophical debates about the fluidity of objective scientific knowledge. Thomsen finds inspiration in an array of sources from the optical experiments of Sir Isaac Newton to the musings of inventor Buckminster Fuller and the manifestos of artist and designer László Moholy-Nagy. Utilizing an array of materials that refract and reflect light, her artistic practice embraces improvisation and iteration as means to creative discovery. The resulting pieces—vibrant color photographs, intricate collages, immersive murals, faceted metallic sculptures—fluidly shift between direct documentation and destabilizing abstraction. Thomsen’s layered works transform the exhibition space through delicate gestures that elicit wonder at the most quotidian elements of light, space and time.”

Sonja Thomsen asks the question, “How do we locate ourselves in the world?” The response is this exhibition at RayKo Photo Center. We locate ourselves in a multiplicity of ways, an always shifting matrix, never a fixed point. Each of Thomsen’s works strive to function as a mode of measuring that locale, a way to assess the space between the mountain, the self and the light. Guided by rigorous material experimentation, she channels the ensuing synergy in the studio as catalyst for construction. Informed by her training in photography, light and space function as the foundation of her work, each piece aiming to assess the space between, where knowledge is always in a state of becoming. Thomsen’s multifaceted practice includes sculpture, interactive installation, photography and site-specific public art.  She embraces interactivity, constructing experiences reflective of our own perceptions of light, limitations of knowing, and the potential of emptiness. The latest incarnation of these culminating ideas is the installation for RayKo, using the curves and angles and light of our building’s interior to create You’ll Find It Where It Is.*

The history of women represented in the light and space movement has become a point of focus as Thomsen has been developing the installation, choreographing light, image and experience. Often times, work by these female artists such as Mary Corse and Helen Pashgian seems to be overlooked. As a practicing female artist in this field, Thomsen feel this art history is incomplete. She’s interested in further investigating these female pioneers as well as exploring current practices of women working with light and space installation. Her work is an extension of this research, building on history, part of a dialogue across time and space. Thomsen’s use of retro reflective glass beads is a direct reference to Mary Corse’s painting with the same material.

Sonja Thomsen’s exhibition is a one-time-only site-specific installation just for RayKo Photo Center’s unique space. Come meet the artist, experience her interpretation of our building and its light and reimagine what photography may or may not be. This exhibition will be on view through December 4th, 2015.

*The origin of the title came from this excerpt from the book A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines by Janna Levin.  It’s at the beginning of the book as she introduces Kurt Godel.  

Sonja Thomsen (b. 1978) is 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 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, Gallery f5,6 in Munich among others. Thomsen's work resides in the collections of the Milwaukee Art Museum, Reykjavík Museum of Photography and the Midwest Photographers Project at Museum of Contemporary Photography. Accolades include the Mary L. Nohl Fellowship for Individual Artists, Milwaukee Arts Board New Work Commission, Digital Artist in Residence at Columbia College Chicago and a Hermitage Artist Fellowship.   Sonja Thomsen is a member of the international photography collective Piece of Cake – POC and co-director of The Pitch Project. 

Thomsen is a Lecturer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.