Local Peek: Tonja Torgerson

The Local Peek series is branching out. It will not only feature awesome shops, handmade items but also artists and anyone else contributing to the community in Syracuse. If you want to be featured email me at bedsidesign [at] gmail [dot] com with “Local Peek” as the subject.

Tonja Tongerson, a local artist who creates phenomenal portraits is with us today. Her portraits “deal with the reality of illness while balancing a thin line between expression and discretion. While these topics could be divisive, the use of color, humor, and childish aesthetic keeps her work welcoming.”

local syracuse artist

What’s your favorite thing to do in Syracuse?
I love to go on walks. I experience a city much differently on foot than when I am moving fast on a bike or in a car. When ever I visit a city I try to cover as much ground on foot as possible. Syracuse has some great hidden nooks and paths that are fun to try to find on long walks.

Why do you create art?
It really doesn’t seem like it is an option anymore. There was a time when I was an undergraduate that I questioned being an artist and spent a few years looking for a different career path, but I never found another avenue that I enjoyed as much. So I buckled down and committed to making art. It is what I really love to do and I hope that it is meaningful to others as well.

local syracuse artist

Can you share a recent favorite read or find?
I feel blessed to have lived in Minneapolis for so long and to be aware of all of the amazing music that is constantly bubbling up from that city. Whether it be Haley Bonar, Rogue Valley, Total Babe or Dark, Dark, Dark- there are tons of musicians rocking the Twin Cities with really unique, amazing sounds. It’s always great to be able to put on their music and feel like I am back home.

What is an interest, or something you’re passionate about?
It is really important to me that I have a garden every summer. I grew up on a farm, my parents were sort of ‘back to the land’ folks, so I always spent time tending to plants and growing vegetables. It doesn’t really feel like spring to me until there is soil under my finger nails and I am scattering lettuce seed. This summer I had my first community garden plot in the Westcott neighborhood, which was awesome and much better than trying to have a million pots on a front porch!

local syracuse artist

What is on your bedside table?
My bedside table is an unholy mess. I am finishing up my final year of grad school and at this point in the semester things have really started to pile up. My studio has begun to spill into my apartment, so there is art and school work everywhere. I don’t even want to look at my bedside table, but I can tell you every inch of it is covered with a whole smattering of things.

What are five things you couldn’t live without?
-My computer. With both art and school, my computer is absolutely essential. It’s my sketchbook, my process to build up layers for prints, and the place I store all the documentation of my artwork- I use it in all the stages of my studio practice.
-A good audiobook/podcast. I like to listen to books on tape when I am working in the studio. It helps me focus and prevents me from getting bored when I have to execute the tedious parts of a project (like painting stripes on a dress for weeks). Plus it’s the only way I have time to enjoy a book right now, so it’s awesome multitasking.
-A studio space. I spent a year trying to make art without a studio and it was really rough- I had to dramatically compromise what I could make. Since then I have had a range of studios; from basements, to (nearly) unheated studios during Minnesota winters, to great warehouse spaces filled with super talented artists. It’s been really important to me to have a space separate from my living quarters. It allows me time away from the work so I can come at it with fresh eyes. Plus, I am a printmaker- so making art tends to be a messy process.
-Coffee. I spent years working at a coffee shop and so coffee became an integral part of my life. I have always tried to live within walking distance of a coffee shop. One of my simpler joys in life is waking up, taking a walk with my husband and getting coffee along the way.
-Pinball. I am a huge nerd for pinball.

Thanks for inspiring us today Tonja. See more of her work here.

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