Current Exhibitions

The Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation presents ongoing seasonal rotations of new acquisitions and installations from its collection of global contemporary and historic digital art.

“Lorna” by Lynn Herhsman Leeson
On view until October, 2020

Lynn Hershman Leeson, Lorna, 1979-84, interactive DVD installation with living room props
Slip into the world of Lorna, a fictional, middle-aged woman too obsessed with TV to leave her apartment. Sit in Lorna’s chair and use her remote control to choose her fate in an interactive video. Thirty-six user-selected paths lead you through the character’s grim desires and glossy distractions.

Lorna, 1979–84, is regarded as the first interactive video artwork ever created, and was originally produced on laserdisc. This was the most advanced video technology in the early 1980s, which the artist customized beyond its normal functions. A video game of life’s choices, Lorna represents the crossroads we face in our digital era: is technology liberating or alienating?

Lynn Hershman Leeson has been called a “prophet of our cybernetic condition” by the New York Times. Working in San Francisco since the mid-1960s, she developed digital alter-egos like Lorna to investigate how new technologies extend the body and psyche into virtual space. Her high-tech, interactive artworks predicted many of today’s concerns with digital culture including camera surveillance, online identities, artificial intelligence, and gene editing.


“Women and Smoke, California” by Judy Chicago
On view until March, 2020

Judy Chicago, Women and Smoke, California, 1971-72, single-channel digital video transferred from 16mm film
Judy Chicago is a groundbreaking American artist who has worked to bring greater recognition to women in the visual arts. Chicago’s 1971-72 video Women and Smoke, California documents a series of performances that Chicago choreographed in the California landscape. Combining colorful bodies and smoke bombs to create paintings off the canvas, the scenes conjure the power and mystery of ancient goddess rituals, an important reference for feminist artists who wanted to reclaim a male-dominated history of art. Said the artist, “It softened everything. There was a moment when the smoke began to clear, but a haze lingered. And the whole world was feminized—if only for a moment.”


Earth Algorithms: Landscapes of the Digital Age
On view until July, 2020

Lee Nam Lee, Cartoon Folding Screen II (detail), 2010, digital video on 5 monitors with audio

Earth Algorithms demonstrates how artists use new tools such as computational algorithms to engage the tradition of landscape art. Bringing together three artworks from South Korea, Japan, and Ethiopia, the exhibit is a case study of contemporary “natural resources” in today’s digital, globalized era, from bamboo and bottlecaps to internet jpegs.

Artists Syōryū Honda, Lee Nam Lee, and Elias Sime rethink these materials as renewable technologies ripe for creative harvest in their landscape-inspired artworks. Using weaving, assemblage, and video, the artists propose a role of artistic intelligence to realize change in the world.


“People on the Fly” by Christa Sommerer & Laurent Mignonneau
On view until May, 2020

Laurent Mignonneau and Christa Sommerer, People on the Fly, 2016, interactive digital animation with camera, custom software, computer, and projector

Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau’s 2016 digital artwork People on the Fly makes its U.S. debut at Art House in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In this interactive installation, People on the Fly attracts a virtual swarm of houseflies to a visitor’s captured image using the artists’ custom swarming algorithm. With this algorithm, only bodies in motion will invite the flies.Insect swarms provide artificial-intelligence researchers with models for understanding how lifeforms make decisions on a particle level, as a swarm thinks cooperatively, without a dominant leader. In this way, a swarm communicates through networked intelligence, a theory called emergence. Software algorithms designed to simulate biological systems can learn from swarm behavior, producing digital data that, in turn, may implicate genetics, social order, and creativity.


“Particle Field” by Leo Villareal
On view until March, 2020

Leo Villareal, Particle Field (Triptych), 2017, custom software on OLED monitors with electrical hardware

This artwork is in a constant state of creation. Leo Villareal programmed Particle Field to generate a live, ever-changing composition. Its custom code is vital to the artwork’s identity and experience. Villareal invokes with his triptych the sacred power of Renaissance altarpieces and the expressive energy of 20th century Color Field painters and performers. The artist said of his digital abstraction, “I wanted to make something that feels like it has existed for a long time using a very contemporary use of technology.”

Villareal produces the world’s largest outdoor light installations in which LEDs are treated as networked pixels across steel bridges and riverbanks. For his monitor-based artworks, Villareal makes use of the latest advance in display technology, the OLED screen, capable of individual cell illumination and the deepest black levels yet invented. Villareal’s algorithm pushes gigabytes of data across 24 million combined pixels in a choreography of orderly chaos.


Art House location & Hours

Wednesday – Saturday, 10am-5pm
231 Delgado St.
Santa Fe, NM 87501

Free parking behind building