• Sonja Lea, "Leaping Forward In Reverse", Oil on MDF, 35.5” x 22.5”
  • Sonja Lea, "Beginning at the End", pastel on paper
  • Sonja Lea, "Inerrogate", oil on panel
  • Sonja Lea, "Little Prince", oil on canvas
  • Sonja Lea, "Now", oil on panel

The transition from youth to maturity in western culture is not as apparent as one might think. Life stages can be defined by biological, social, legal and psychological indicators, yet, these markers differ so widely from person to person that they can never align to create a consistent criteria distinguishing childhood from adulthood.

Just as there is a lack of defining features of childhood, societal perceptions of children is inconsistent. In 1960, French historian Philippe Aries wrote the book Centuries of Childhood. He believed that the way children were painted reflected the views of childhood in each era. Accordingly, he believed that the awareness of childhood was nonexistent in medieval society because children were typically depicted as miniature adults with defined, mature features. Although his work has been disputed, it established the fact that any prevailing concept or perception of childhood has been constructed by adults and has evolved over time.

Propelled by these ideas and how they have affected my own experience, I began to create portraits from photographic mementos; a source of portrayal of my childhood. I manipulate them through cropping, blurring, changes of scale, and painterly effects to challenge and skew cultural notions of youth and maturity.

My work plays with the dynamic between maturity and immaturity, knowledge and naiveté, agedness and youthfulness fueled by the push-pull relationship between the dividing ideals of childhood and adulthood. Through my work, I alter the imagery and personas associated with childhood and adulthood, inviting viewers to inspect the social construction of these stages of life, the jarring transition between them, and the impact of age-specific social expectations on their own lives.