Sandy Sorlien



Artist: Sorlien, Sandy       

Title/Date:  Ice, Philadelphia, 2000

Description of the work:  

The artist documents in this black-and-white photograph large chunks of ice with sharp edges. The composition is divided diagonally from upper right to lower left by a darker line of smaller broken pieces besides two sections of unbroken ice sheets. The diagonal of the composition documents the fragility and the movement of the ice. The weather temperature of the ice is near freezing.

Sorlien’s grant proposal to the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program to photograph landscapes in Antarctica was rejected. She then decided to take photographs at home in the Northeastern United States of places that she imagined looked like Antarctica. The shooting was done during the historically severe winter of 1996 and subsequent winters. The result is a powerful collection of images representing snow and ice-filled images introducing the viewer into Sorlien’s vision of Antarctica. Using a plastic toy Holgas camera, the artist creates a world that is voyeuristic, isolated, and mysterious. Ironically, her brother found himself traveling to Antarctica on a project to map the Ross Sea, and their email dialogue is paired with the images. This photography is part of a series catalogued into a book.


Sandy Sorlien was born and raised in the Schuylkill River watershed and lives in Roxborough near the Manayunk Canal. Sorlien is a photographer, neighborhood planner, and watershed educator. Her photographs are in the collections of numerous institutions, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Michener Museum, and Haverford College. Since 2012, she has been a contractor at the Fairmount Water Works, the education sector of Philadelphia Water. She has developed several upriver dam-related programs, including the Falling Waters tour series and the Schuylkill Dam Series geocaches. Sandy rows out of Bachelors Barge Club on Boathouse Row, and watches carefully for herons, kingfishers, and otters – all biological indicators of a healthy river.

In her own words published in her website, Sorlien writes:  “My working life changed abruptly when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in late summer 2005. At the time, I was primarily a fine-art photographer and educator, teaching a new class at the University of Pennsylvania called The Photography of Urban Place, and working on a book about Main Streets. I was also the part-time editor of the Smart Code, a model design and development code for towns and cities that is based on smart growth and new urbanist principles. Now in 2012, that stormy path is coming back to meet the older path, the art of photography. I was a full-time code writer and planner, and teacher of coding workshops. This work took me far beyond the Gulf Coast, to at least twenty American cities and five countries.”

Sandy Sorlien is a prolific artist and writer with four photographic series entitled: Fifty Houses, Antartica, Manayuk and Main Streets.  The publications include the books  Fifty Houses, Imagining Antartica and SmartCode & Manuals.


Signed: No  

Date and Dimension: 2000; Image: 14” x 14”; Framed: 24”x 23”

Medium: Gelatin-Silver Print

Accession Number and Acquisition Date: acc.# 2002.01.08; Date: 2002

Condition: Excellent.         

Provenance and Exhibitions: UNK

Framed or Flat File: Framed and mounted with mat

Current Location: The piece is a part of the New Mexico State University’s permanent collections.


-Sorlein, Sandy. Imagining Antarctica, 2000; Accessed December 7, 2016.

-Sandy Sorlien, 2006 Accessed November 28, 2016

-Birch, Eugenie. L & Wachter, Susan. M. Rebuilding Urban Places After Disaster: Lessons from Hurricane Katrina. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.

Researched by: Latha Sankaran. 11 November 2016