Sonja Hinrichsen

In Residence: June 8 – July 31, 2009
Exhibition: opens July 30; continues through August 21
Learning Lab for Educators: June 30 – July 31, 2009


During her two-month residency at PlatteForum, Sonja Hinrichsen, new genre artist, created a new media installation that revolves around the gallery, reflecting shifting images on the walls, floors, and diagonal surfaces of the gallery. As the moving images overlap, they transform the space to create a sense of memory and history from Denver’s past. Outside, trains roar by the gallery windows adding another layer to the film’s sound collages. The overall effect is ethereal and dreamy. When viewers pause, they experience sounds and sights that trigger memories, perhaps of Denver’s history, as well as of their own personal perceptions of this place.
Hinrichsen states: “Being European, the concept of Manifest Destiny has always struck me as something outrageous; as an attempt to officially legalize immoral and inhumane activities, including genocide. I knew that Denver’s history would interest me quite a bit and that it would very likely inform my work.”

Hinrichsen flew into Denver during a thunderstorm and her first impressions were the reflections of light, sky, and clouds in giant glass walls of modern high-rises. At PlatteForum, she was delighted to find herself in the very core of the city’s activity, both past and present, where bands of Arapaho camped and where the tiny settlements of Denver City and Auraria originated in 1858 and ’59. Decades later, the city’s abandoned railroad yards and industries fell into decay during the beginning of the 20th century to make way for greenbelts and upscale living and office spaces, cafes, and restaurants that surfaced at the brink of the 21st century.

Denver’s railroads captured Hinrichsen’s attention with their frequent tact of exhausted engines, rattling of unleveled steel wheels on tracks, screeching of brakes, banging of couplers, and honking of horns. After researching the railroad’s significance in the building of the American West, she realized that here at PlatteForum, the railroad is close enough to touch and make her heart jump. “I wanted to bring the trains even closer, have them go right through the space, not just along its outer wall.”

Hinrichsen used trains and Denver’s weather patterns as a framework for the installation. She incorporated video, sound, and narrative “Reflections” on Denver history, encounters between Native Americans and early settlers. Learning Lab for Educators participants Sarah Chung, Joseph Davidson and Erica Ristig created work for the installation that mapped the city and reflected on neighborhood history, architecture, women’s roles in Denver’s past and present and the frontier experience. Artist Statements: Reflections. Blog: Reflections.

About the Artist
Sonja Hinrichsen received her MFA in New Genres from the San Francisco Art Institute and two State Exams in visual art and media art from the Academy of Fine Art Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany. Sonja, who exhibits nationally and internationally in solo and group exhibitions, has received numerous awards and fellowships as well as 21 residencies in artist colonies around the world

Photos: Efrain Cruz, Illuminate Workshops

Special thanks to
Brianna McLean, Intern; Daniel Weinshenker, Center for Digital Storytelling; Wendel Cox, Denver Public Library Western History/Genealogy; Museum of Contemporary Art; Museum of Outdoor Art; Colorado History Museum; Women in Crisis / The Family Tree; Denver Safehouse; Karen Saenz, My BeverageMeister; Neil T. Myers, Mad Graphics; Total Beverage Company; Gourmet Fine Catering, Darby Donahue, owner; Southern Wine & Spirits of Colorado; Wilma & Lou Weipert; Jane Crayton; Cal Duran; Sarah Slater; Liz Newton; Thomas Dodds; Bruce Fowler; Jeff Schoemaker; Theresa Ducayet Clowes; Madden Swan; Bart Spaulding; Cindy Haner; Nancy Green; Connie Stewart, University of Northern Colorado; Diane Krogh, University of Northern Colorado