watercolor + Pen
ARTIST STATEMENT: Nature, especially birds, has struck a chord in me since childhood. My grandfather saw Passenger Pigeons darken the sky in St Paul. They went extinct before I was born. My parents taught me to bird, to observe, to document. Throughout my life, I have seen more and more green space in our city turned to concrete and asphalt. Since 1976, I have advocated to protect and preserve the green space and waterways of Pig’s Eye Lake Regional Park. It is surrounded by industry and the parkland is being eaten up by greed. Through my watercolor sketches I am documenting the beauty of the place and the threats it faces.
Artist Bio: I’ve been sketching all my life. An artist influencer to me is Vera Ming Wong. At a community ed class in Botanical Art, she said, “You’ll learn 3 things: You will learn about the subject you’re drawing, drawing skills, and yourself.” In 2013 I joined MetroSketchers - an informal collection of sketchers who gather monthly. It was there I started learning watercolors and the role of sketchers as documentarians. One of the best artists, Ken Avidor, explained, “We meet here to sketch what we see at this place at this time.” In 2020 I returned to environmental activism to save precious Pig’s Eye (known as Ćhokán Tanka - “The Big Middle” by the Dakota). This Regional Park is surrounded by heavy industry and threatened by institutional dumping of contaminants on public park land. Many days it seems the struggle is hopeless. But once we started visiting the park every few days, I realized that now is the time to illustrate, record, and document the beauty of the landscape and the Relatives living there.
I am a life-long resident of St Paul, and the 3rd generation Sonnen to live here. I have worked as a financial aid administrator, community organizer, director of community-based social services, City Councilmember, crime analyst, and community service officer. My volunteer experience is in park advocacy, animal rights, and environmental protection.
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