Meet the Artist
I believe in the harmonious coexistence of abstraction and realism thereby enhancing and enriching each other. My work embodies realism in abstraction and abstraction in realism - transcending and encompassing these doctrines.
Born 1930 in Chester, Pennsylvania, Joan Brechin Sonnenberg received a youth scholarship to study at the Carnegie Art Institute in Pittsburgh, PA. Her mother, a sculptor and a singer, and father, an industrial engineer who worked on the Manhattan Project, provided major creative influences. Lively conversations often revolved around religion, politics and the human condition, but invariably, the three found middle ground. As a college student at the Carnegie Mellon University, Sonnenberg was staff cartoonist for Tartan, the campus newspaper. After graduation, she continued with independent studies in printmaking techniques.
She won two Best of Show awards in 1976, with both exhibitions at the Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio. Sonnenberg’s work has been honored with 57 major awards in art exhibitions throughout the United States – Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Ohio, North Carolina and Florida, with four solo exhibitions from 2004 to 2016. Jurors include internationally known artists Richard Anuszkiewicz and Faith Ringgold as well as art critics, museum curators and directors. Her large-scale etchings, paintings and murals have been included in 18 major corporation collections in Japan, Brazil and throughout the U.S.
A mother of four grown children, Joan Sonnenberg moved to the east coast of Florida in 1997 and since 2000 has been based in Naples. Petite, but with robust energy and insatiable curiosity, Sonnenberg maintains her lifelong studio practice working every day with sustained vigor. Her daily 4-mile walks continually inspire new ideas.
At the age of 5, I became interested in the real and imaginary facets of art and life which have formed the basis of my artwork ever since.
I began my studio practice as a printmaker creating large scale, mural size etchings inspired by images from photographs I took as I walked along streets of the Northeast. Living in Pennsylvania’s Rust Belt for much of my life provided an abundance of architectural and industrial references.
Interested in geometric patterns achieved through multiple reverse etching processes, I superimpose and stack up to ten images one atop the other until it becomes a complex montage of lines, shapes and patterns. I strive to alter and combine abstraction with realism; capturing marks made over time through human intervention; the mundane, decaying worn objects, dumpsters, wall graffiti. I also portray street people, each embedded with stories to tell.
Evolving from printmaking to painting, much of the same kaleidoscope patterns and shapes remain. I photograph multiple images in one frame, automatically producing compounded/fractured imagery as a reference for painting. After moving to Florida in 1997, I found similar subject matter along walks through urban southern streets, but since I am curious about all I see, the tropical foliage, specifically the banana’s multitudinous leaf patterns, inspired a new series of paintings.
I prefer to work on multiple series simultaneously and continually explore new approaches, using charcoal, pastel, watercolor, acrylic, gesso on both canvas and paper. My practice has included printmaking, photography, painting and drawing.
I strive to convey the harmonious coexistence of abstraction and realism, transcending and encompassing both doctrines.
1953 – B.S., Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA
Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, PA
School of Fine Arts, Chatham College, Pittsburgh, PA
Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Pittsburgh, PA
Peace River College, Grand Prairie, Alberta, Canada
2017 – Best of Show, 67th Annual, Florida Artist Group Exhibition, Coral Springs Museum of Art, Coral Springs Fl; Juror John Rasmussen, Director, Curator American University Museum at Katzen Arts Center
2017 – Best of Show, 28th Annual Members, Centers for the Arts Bonita Springs, FL; Juror Scott Snyder, former director, Fine Art Gallery, Florida Gulf Coast University, Estero, FL
2015 – Best of Show, Surface Tension, Center for Arts at Bonita Springs, FL
2014 – Best of Show, 50th Founders, The von Liebig Art Center, Naples, FL; Juror Erin Wright, Professor of Art, University of Alabama, Birmingham
2014 – Best of Show, 25th Annual Members, Center for Arts at Bonita Springs, FL
2014 – First Place, Oddities, Center for Arts at Bonita Springs, FL; Juror Sally Brighton, MFA California artist and adjunct professor
2013 – First Place, Annual Members, Center for Arts at Bonita Springs, FL
2011 – First Place, Annual Members, Center for Arts at Bonita Springs, FL
2011 – Best of Show, Hot Hot Hot, Center for Arts at Bonita Springs, FL
2010 – Floyd Chaney Award, 100th Annual, Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art; Pittsburgh, PA; Jurors art critic Donald Miller and Al Miner, curator Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Museum, Washington, DC.
2009 – Best of Show, 46th Founders, The von Liebig Art Center, Naples, FL; Juror Daniel Stetson, Director, Chief Curator, Polk Museum of Art, Lakeland, FL
2008 – First Place, Spring Exhibition, Art Council of SW Florida, Estero, FL
2008 – Second Place, Images, Boca Raton Museum of Art; Juror Richard J. Frank, Curator of Education, BRMA and Norton Museum, Palm Beach, FL
2007 – Best of Show, Grace Lake Award, 46th Founders, The von Liebig Art Center, Naples, FL; Juror Faith Ringgold, artist
2007 – Best of Show, All Florida Exhibition, Alliance for the Arts, Ft Myers, FL
2007 – Major Triad Award, Florida Watercolor Society Annual, Daytona Beach Museum of Art, Daytona Beach, FL
2007 – Ru Israels Memorial Award, Florida Artist Group Annual, Daytona Beach Museum of Art, Daytona Beach, FL
2006 – Major Triad Award, Florida Watercolor Society Annual, Sarasota Art Center, Sarasota, FL
2006 – Honorable Mention, National Biennial, Boca Raton Museum of Art, Boca Raton, FL
2003 – First Place, Super Bowl, Arts Council of SW Florida, Naples, FL
2002 – Best of Show, 42th Founders, The von Liebig Art Center, Naples, FL; Juror Jennifer Hardin, Chief Curator, Museum of Fine Art, St. Petersburg, FL
2002 – First Place, Photography, Cornell Museum of Art, Delray Beach, FL
2002 – Award of Excellence, Lee County Alliance for the Arts, Fort Myers, FL
2001 – First Place, Super Bowl, Arts Council of SW Florida, Naples, FL
2000 – Best of Show, 40th Founders, The von Liebig Art Center, Naples, FL
2000 – Juror’s Choice Award, Art Encounter, The von Liebig Art Center, Naples, FL
2000 – Best of Show, Eclectic Collective, Coral Springs Artist Guild, FL
1999 – Juror’s Choice Award, Art Encounter, The von Liebig Art Center, Naples, FL
1979 – First Prize, Raleigh Fine Arts Society Exhibition; North Carolina State University Galleries, Raleigh, NC; Juror Claude Howell, Chair, Art Department, UNC at Wilmington
1976 – Best of Show, Bicentennial National Invitational, Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH; Richard J. Boyle Director, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Pittsburgh, PA
1976 – First Prize/Butler Merit Medal, 40th Annual Midyear Exhibition, Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH; Richard J. Boyle Director, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Pittsburgh, PA
Note: 2004-1976: 28 major awards in 32 Associated Artists of Pittsburgh Annual Exhibitions, Heinz Gallery, Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, PA. Best of Show awarded by Juror Richard Anuszkiewicz.
2016 – Boundless: Joan Brechin-Sonnenberg, Ava Maria University Canizaro Library, Ava Maria, FL
2013 – Joan Sonnenberg: The Middle Point, The von Liebig Art Center, Naples, FL
2009 – Joan Sonnenberg, Emerge Art Center, Harvey Wooten Gallery, Greenville, NC
2009 – Flying Solo: Joan Sonnenberg, Art Gallery Old Naples, FL
2004 – Images Transcending the Medium, Coral Springs Museum of Art, Coral Springs, FL
2008 – International Art Exhibition, Design Center of the Americas, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Curator Lenore Stern-Morris, art dealer, consultant
2007 – 46th Founders Awardees, The von Liebig Art Center, Naples, FL
2006 – Urban Expressions: Joan Sonnenberg, Marcus Jansen, Alliance for Arts, Ft Myers, FL
2002 – Florida National Combined Talents, Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts, Tallahassee, FL
2001 – World Biannual of Art on Paper, Ljubljana (Slovenia), published catalog
1993 – Pittsburgh Print Group Exhibition, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Pittsburgh, PA
1975 – 11th Annual Invitational Regional, Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Greensburg, PA
Naples Art Association Permanent Collection, The von Liebig Art Center, Naples, FL
Banco do Brasil
Bank of New York, Mellon Corporation
E.J. Bartolo Corporation
Environmental Research & Technology, Inc.
Franklin Federal Savings & Loan Co.
Pittsburgh National Corporation
Mitsubishi Electric Corporation
Mobay Chemical Corporation
Private Collections in USA, Canada, Brazil, Norway, Argentina, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, and Japan
2017 – “Transcending Expectation: The Life and Art of Joan B. Sonnenberg” by Michael Crews, Working Title publication, Fall issue: pp 24-25
2016 – “Boundless: Joan Brechin Sonnenberg Exhibition”, Gulf Coasting News-Press, p 26
2013 – “Fall for Art”, Naples Daily News, Neapolitan, Janice T. Paine, pp 1-2D
2010 – “Creating fluid transitions of art at AAP’s Centennial”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Mary Thomas; 8/1/10, pp E-1, E-3
2009 – “On Her Own”, Naples Florida Weekly, Karen Stone, 4/16-22, pp C1, C4
2009 – “Awards Announced in 48th Founders Juried Awards Exhibition”, Florida Weekly, Naples c19-20
2008 – “The Best She Can Be” Naples Florida Weekly; Nancy Stetson, 10/2-6, pp C-1, C-4
2008 – “Inside the Mind of an Artist”, Gulfshore Life magazine, Nancy Stetson, pp.132-138; “Joan of Art has a Modest Proposal”, Forward by Editor David Sendler, p 22
2007 – “Her Works of Art”, News-Press Gulf Coasting, Charles Runnels, 12/5/07, p 1, 3
2007 – “Artists Return for Art Encounter”, News-Press Gulf Coasting; Charles Runnels, 5/9/07,
2007 – “Too Much Bravado”, Expressions, WGCU Public Media, Sarah Coble, August pp20-21
2004 – “Regional Artists Tackle Timely Issues”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Mary Thomas, 7/20/04
2004 – “ArtBeat”, Art Review by Michael Mills, New Times Broward – Palm Beach, June 3-9 “The Power Look at Home Decorating for Men”, Egon von Furstenberg, Karen Fisher; pp 112-113
2003 – “Joan Brechin Sonnenberg”, City Link Magazine, Candice Russell, p 61
1976 – “12 of 164 Butler Works Win Awards”, art critic Clyde Singer, Youngstown Vindicator, A-22