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current show:

exhibition information:

Oil & Water: New Paintings by David Niec, New Photographs by Sonja Thomsen

June 8 - 26, 2007

click for more images of David Niec's paintings
click for more images of Sonja Thomsen's photographs

opening reception:

Friday, June 8 from 6-9pm

about the artists:

David Niec works with an uncredited collaborator in painting his northwoods nocturnes. It is the night itself.

As was true of the French plein air painters, he paints directly from nature. Instead of setting up his easel in sun-splashed fields of the kind that attracted Pissarro, Monet and Renoir, though, Niec (pronounced "nick") paints mostly during the winter months and in the dead of night. He mixes his oils with illumination from flashlights. Because winter nights in Wisconsin can be brutally cold, his breath often turns frost on his panel supports, producing miasmas that have to be thawed before he can proceed. Almost always snow covers the ground.

While Niec's working process might strike many landscape painters as torturous, he believes he gains an important payoff through the process. The night joins with him in creating his work. The inky, blue-black air blots out all but the broadest and most critical pictorial components of the settings, aiding him in his exercises in abstraction.

Niec carried out most of his formal studies in painting at the University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee where he received BA in art. He has exhibited widely and his paintings are to be found in numerous collections, including, in significant numbers, that of David Nash, the internationally prominent British environmental artist.

Sonja Thomsen's art provokes riddles.

Are her works photographs or are they paintings? Are they both? Are they neither?

Her works issue from photographic processes, but is that alone enough to give them an identity as photographs? In their look, and in their re-presentation of bits of the natural world in ways in which we might think the eye and even the camera are blind, her works often seem to operate as paintings where the artist has controlled every part of their being. When confronting Thomsen's works like Surface # 1, Surface #2 and Surface #27, one seems less likely to think of the work of other photographers than to the canvases of such color field painters Jules Olitski. Similarly, it's probably not the names of other photographers that initially surface to mind when encountering Thomsen works like Surface #6. In the evanescent quality of the scene, and in the rich dyes of the water not just from the surface and submerged plant life but also from the sun, sky and the clouds reflected from overhead, one immediately recognizes correspondences in the work with Monet's water lily paintings.
It's obvious from the "Water Series" that Thomsen is drawn to subjects from the natural world, but unlike, say, Ansel Adams or Hiroshi Sugimoto, she doesn't feel a need to aim her camera at such epic subjects as the Yosemite's El Capitan or the Pacific ocean. Hers are pictures of small wonders. The starting point for the works were ponds and puddles she discovered in ambles near her home.

Thomsen has been exhibiting her work in solo and group shows since 1998. She received a bachelor of arts degree from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, in 2002. She then attended the San Francisco Art Institute where one of her principal mentors was the prominent contemporary landscape photographer, Linda Connor. Thomsen was awarded a master of fine arts degree from the institute in 2004. She has been a member of the art faculty at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design since then.