Ruth Thorne-Thomsen

(1943) American


Born in New York City, Ruth Thorne-Thomsen worked in a variety of artistic media and as a dancer before earning a BFA in photography from Columbia College in 1973 and an MFA in photography from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1976. In 1978 she was a staff photographer at the Chicago Sun-Times and later taught photography at the University of Colorado. She produced a number of series, including Expeditions, Door, Prima Materia, Views from the Shoreline, Messengers, Songs of the Sea, Journey, Mythologies, and Proverbs. Her work has been shown at the Art Institute of Chicago, the St. Louis Art Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, which mounted a retrospective exhibition of her work in 1993; she has received, among other awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award from Columbia College in Chicago and three National Endowment for the Arts grants.
Ruth Thorne-Thomsen is best known for her constructed landscape photographs made with a cigar-box pinhole camera. In these works, she sets cropped pictures and miniature props in real landscapes, exposes them onto paper negatives, and produces sepia-toned contact prints. The resulting images feature an infinite depth of field, freedom from linear distortion, a high level of contrast, and a soft grain. Because of her choice of subjects, the printing method, and the pinhole camera's rendering of sharply focused but ambiguously scaled subjects, her images recall both nineteenth-century calotype landscapes and the uncanny juxtapositions of Surrealist imagery from the 1920s and 1930s.
Lisa Hostetler
Handy et al. Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection, New York: Bulfinch Press in association with the International Center of Photography, 1999, p. 229.
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