Ruth Thorne-Thomsen (born in New York City) has described her work as "environmental collage." Since 1976 she has worked extensively with the pinhole camera and paper negatives to achieve soft-focus effects. She often incorporates into her images handmade miniature props (cardboard silhouettes, cones, pyramids, and ships), constructing mythic tableaux that recall forms and fragments from antiquity, as well as 20th-century surrealism. Such series include Expeditions (1976-84), Door (1981-83), Prima Materia (1985-87), Views from the Shoreline (1986-87), and Songs of the Sea (begun 1991). For her series titled Messengers (1989-90)portraits of statues blurred as if in motionThorne-Thomsen increased her scale from 4 x 5 inches to 4 x 5 feet, giving her subjects Pygmalion life. Drawing references from philosophy, literature, myth, and dreams, she configures a psychic territory where archetype and reality playfully coalesce.
Before devoting herself to photography and teaching, Thorne-Thomsen was a dancer, earning an F.A. in dance from Columbia College (1963) and touring with the Sybil Shearer Dance Company (1964-65), based in Northbrook, Illinois. After earning a B.F.A. in painting from Southern Illinois University and a B.F.A. in photography from Columbia College, she studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (M.F.A., 1975), then worked as staff photographer for the Chicago Sun-Times (1978). She has won awards from the National Endowment for the Arts (1982, 1989) and La Napoule Foundation, France (1989). She taught photography at Columbia College (1974-83) and in the department of fine arts and theater at the University of Colorado (1983-89). —Joseph Bellows Gallery, La Jolla