ImageBy Patrice Shields

“There are two sides to everything,” says artist Joan Brechin Sonnenberg.  The theology behind her statement describes both her personal and artistic philosophy. As an artist Sonnenberg combines abstraction and realism to create oversized artworks that layer concepts and ideas into works that stop observers in their tracks.

“I came from a family that combined religion and politics.  In doing this we always found there was a middle of the road,” says Sonnenberg.  Now a resident of Naples, Sonnenberg began her art training 70 years ago at the age of six as a child prodigy attending pre-college art scholar classes at the Carnegie Institute.  Sonnenberg continued her education attending Chatham College and graduating with a BA College of Fine Arts from Carnegie Mellon University where she was the staff cartoonist to the editor of the campus newspaper.  Sonnenberg continued on to study Multi-colored Intaglio Printmaking with George Nama at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and Non-Toxic Printmaking with Keith Howard at Peace River College.

“Joan is this walking dichotomy,” says Susan Bridges President of the Center for the Arts Bonita Springs.  “A petite, soft spoken person with huge artworks that are totally in your face.  Knowing Joan for over 15 years has been a joy—her continued evolution as an artist—always stretching ideas out farther and farther.  She has this exquisite ability to take an image, move it back and forth between abstraction and realism and arrive at her very own dialog.  It’s truly wonderful to experience her art.”

The depth of Sonnenberg’s talent and mastery appears subtly but unmistakably in her work.  Sonnenberg’s enormous portraits offer insight into the soul of each subject without judgment or commentary.   Sonnenberg will often stop subjects and ask if she can take their picture to paint.  Bonita Springs resident Richard Theurer saw an article about the Center for the Arts Bonita Springs’ Portrait and Figure Exhibition in a local magazine that include a picture of her work “Art Aficianado.”  Theurer immediately recognized his image in the larger than life artwork and remembered yeas back that a woman had stopped him at Costco and asked if she could take his picture to paint.  Joan Brechin Sonnenberg was that woman and “Art Aficianado,” was the painting.


For more than 70 years Sonnenberg still find time to paint every day.  “It’s a passion.  It’s something I want to do more than anything else,” says Sonnenberg.  “I think being an artist and painting is the most fun you can have in this world.  If there’s something you want to do in life, you’ll find the time.  It’s out there for you.  Go for it.”

Joan Brechin Sonnenberg’s work can be seen at the Center for the Arts of Bonita Springs 24th Annual Members Exhibition, January 25 through February 21, 2013.  Open only to current members of the Center for the Arts of Bonita Springs, this exhibition is the ‘crème de la crème’ competition for our member artists. A very tightly pre-juried and judged collection of artworks from our members showcasing the best artists and a wide variety of media and styles.


The Center for the Arts Bonita Springs’ Members Exhibition Opening Reception is 6:00pm, Friday, January 25, 2013. The Members Exhibition’s opening reception also features a campus-wide Open House, featuring faculty and visiting artists’ demonstrations and displays, and live music on their outdoor stage and light refreshments.  The Members Exhibition is sponsored by Collins & DuPont Interior Design.  Admission is free.  For more information, please call the Center for the Arts at 239-495-8989 or visit them on-line at



 Those who join the Center for the Arts for the first time receive two tickets to one of this season’s Live at the Promenade events. The Center for the Arts offers this benefit for first time members only.


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