“I wanted to understand the full human experience.” Patti Smith
Sonya Whitefield, née Cromie, born Moy 1964, is an artist based in Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland.
She studied Foundation Art at Ulster University and went on to specialise in Photography at Bournemouth and Poole College of Art and Design 1984 – 1987. She has exhibited her work nationally and internationally including The Golden Thread Gallery Belfast, The Gallery of Photography Dublin, The Photographer’s Gallery London, The Moon Gallery Georgia, USA and the Hungarian Museum Of Photography. Her work has been published in numerous periodicals and she has received individual awards from Arts Council of Northern Ireland, The British Council, Southern Arts England and Rural Arts NI.
Her most recent project ‘Travelling In A Strange Land’ is a creative collaboration with the highly acclaimed Irish writer David Park and is a personal artistic response to his novel of the same title which was published by Bloomsbury in March 2018. The works explore a reflective journey through the themes of familial love and loss, combining imagery with text to present a moving, thoughtful and at times chilling reflection of a very human story. The work was documented in the Irish Times in July 2018 and the prestigious all Ireland journal Irish Pages. It was also exhibited as part of the John Hewitt Summer School at Market Place Theatre, Armagh and, in December 2018, in a performative context in the Seamus Heaney Homeplace.
An earlier work ‘The Journey of the Hysterectic Woman’ is a unique photographic project that creatively interprets one woman’s journey through a hysterectomy operation. It challenges conventional perception and asks questions as to how, with imagination and creativity, a woman can take some personal control over this often traumatic medical procedure on the feminine body and psyche. The work shines a light on this major, yet commonplace operation and promotes the use of the arts as a tool for transformation and recovery. The accompanying limited edition art book ‘Hysterectic’ was winner of the UK Mc Naughton Review Award in 2010.
Whitefield’s work is visceral, uncompromising, fearless, fearsome and humane. It tends towards visual poetry – captured human narratives that turn the ordinary into the extraordinary and challenge people to view, and question, our inner and outer worlds. The human body, children, the strange interiors we inhabit, the threatening exteriors we flee from, and scars themselves – the marks of our passing, and the passing of others through us and alongside us, emotional and most definitely physical – have endured as artistic motifs running through her work.
She works as an Arts Development Officer for The Arts Council of Northern Ireland.