Eve Sonneman - Essay
By David Cohen
Eve Sonneman is a photist. Her medium is light, as in lightness of being,
radiance, speed, clarity and warmth. She is internationally renowned as
a photographer, with a career that shoots across the divide between
“art” and “trade” as surely as light does time and space. Slightly less
familiar are her efforts with the paint brush. Her unique vision finds three
principal outlets: watercolor painting, oil painting, and photography. If
Sally Bowles could say, “I am a camera”, Eve Sonneman can declare, “I
am a tripod”.
Her photography subdivides into black and white dipytchs (her
trademark, almost) which distill non-sequential time into quivering
stillnesses, and Polaroids. These latter further subdivide into blurry, dizzy
papparazi-like sketches (sometimes diptychs, too) made with Polaroid’
s old-fashioned (in this digital age) handheld instantly developing
device, and what one might call “machines” in the salon sense, grand
set-to pieces whose creation involves wizardry in the Polaroid Studio,
where the vision is correspondingly cosmic. These are her Sonnegrams.
The Sonnegram, in which dancers, swimmers and sportsmen are
superimposed upon NASA photos of various planets and their moons,
exploits a personally patented technology. In naming it so, Sonneman
claims parity with, and at the same moment pays homage to, two
paternal heros, Man Ray (he of the Rayogram) and her own father, Eric
Sonneman, discoverer of antistatic and of a means to make golf balls fly
faster. Eve Sonneman is a formal eclectic whose every diverse creation
bears the unmistakable stamp of her sensibility. The art world is a
tolerant and decent enough place but it is rarely capable of keeping up
with the generosity of spirit of the men and women it serves, artists,
preferring to cordon off their efforts into singular, marketable “lines”. This
year, however, followers of Eve Sonneman have a welcome chance to
see her disparate efforts together, to savor her unity in diversity.
Sensitivity to each medium is Sonneman’s glory. She responds with a
vision as much as a touch specific to her chosen means. Her oils,
worked slowly over many months, exploit stillness and quietude.
Sensations of pure color are isolated. Individual cells must be brought
together by the viewer’s eye into dynamic interaction. Her watercolors,
which she makes daily with diaristic fidelity, working whenever the
temperature allows on her New York terrace, extend the obsession with
orbs found in her oil paint pointillism and her Polaroid planets, but
exploit the transparency and chance effects of the medium. Arrested
explosions and implosions of radiant color collapse the boundaries
between time and space. The Polaroids dramatize, almost one might
say, satirize, the enigmas discovered, in the abstract, in her watercolors.
They offer chance encounters between two kinds of play: they are
collisions of imagination and of light.