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“Surrealist Feminist” opens at Dollhaus II with 30 works by Staten Island artist

By David Mosca | The Jersey Journal

For her first solo show at Dollhaus II, Tonya Knudsen has a collection of 30 oil paintings that have been completed over the last four years. The show, “Surrealist Feminism,” can be seen starting Friday, Dec. 17, with an opening reception from 4 to 9 p.m.

Residing in Staten Island, where she finds endless inspiration by living next to Snug Harbor, Knudsen has been active in the New York literary, fashion, and art scene since the mid 90s. A contemporary, female surrealist painter, her works force us to look beyond the female human experience, its daily mundane existence, and describe incidents where a familiar thing or event is encountered in an unsettling occurrence.

Knudsen explains that each painting starts with a psychological state: Essentially, what it is to be a woman -- the girl on the dancefloor with the light shining on her, the gloomy Victorian girl constrained and intellectual, or the vindictive Greek goddess casting extreme sentences.

“I see women commuting to work, doing routine domestic things on social media, and am saddened that most women are blind to all these fantastic and imaginative parts of themselves, of womanhood, that are possible,” she says.


The works are meant to bring the low-esteemed female, or the unconventional female, to higher levels. At the core of Knudsen’s work is the willingness to challenge imposed values and norms, and a search for freedom for women.

Knudsen describes her physical process as ‘Tetrachromatic’ where many of her paintings rely on color.


“Most people know what color blindness is, in men,” she says. “But very few people know what a tetrachromat is. It is the opposite, it is a trait commonly found in women who have an extra cone that causes them to view color differently, a wider spectrum, especially in the areas of purple and grey. So, there is a theme in this work of ‘how could a tetrachromat show the world color the way they see it?”


Transmutation also comes into play with Knudsen’s work, which for her is a modern woman living in a modern world. Every painting in this solo exhibition started with a concept sketch done in pencil and scanned or started in photoshop. This allows the colors to be seen on a pixel level blasted by light coming through the screen, altering how we see the image when light is coming through it on our screens.


This transmutation of light is a central theme running through Knudsen’s work as she captures the modernity of digital light with the classic art medium of oil painting.

Dollhaus II is located at 23 Cottage St., Bayonne, and is open from 2 to 9 p.m. every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

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