SEP 18–DEC 12, 2021


Featuring photographs by Bay Area artist Tabitha Soren, Surface Tension explores the intersection of everyday technology with culture, politics, and human contact.

Using an 8x10 large-format camera, Soren shoots iPad screens under raking light to reveal the tactile trail we leave behind. The images beneath are a compendium of private and public experiences, from a young child blowing a kiss goodnight to her mother, to the protests that followed the fatal 2014 shooting by police of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The images she chooses are drawn from web searches, text messages, social media content, and personal pictures, raising questions about authenticity and exploring the difficulty and lack of desire to distinguish between reality and fiction. Soren’s images serve as a poignant meditation on the role of digital devices in society and offer a reminder of the traces, both physical and digital, that we leave behind when using them.

The images in the exhibition all relate to the sense of touch, whether compassionate touch—the everyday, incidental gestures that we take for granted; a lack of touch—as seen in our society’s collective internet habits and pandemic Zoom culture; or harmful touch—including ways human touch has negatively impacted the Earth or how police violence has devastated communities in America.

Curator and MCAM Executive Director Stephanie Hanor remarks, “Tabitha’s work documents the complicated realities of social protest, environmental issues, and human interaction, forcing us to examine the ways that we consume visual information and how those narratives are framed and presented through photography.”

Surface Tension is Soren’s first solo museum exhibition in the Bay Area and includes three new installations created specifically for the Mills College Art Museum. The first, a mural-sized image of an eye, greets the visitor as they enter the gallery. Soren has also created an immersive installation of images of resistance, from the 2016 protests in Charlotte, NC and the first national Women’s March, to the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 and the siege on the US Capitol in 2021. Together, the images mirror the ways contemporary society consumes and disseminates information, and the way technology is used to accentuate difference as well as its unifying potential. Finally, Narcissus, a multi-channel video and sound installation featuring floor-based prints with mirrored surfaces, serves as a space for reflection and as a respite from the visual commotion of internet consumption.


Tabitha Soren (b.1967, San Antonio, TX) is a visual artist in different domains for over twenty-five years. She has long explored the intersection of psychology, culture, politics, and the body. Though a palpable sense of pathos connects all her images, Soren begins each new series using the methodical investigative tools she used during her time in journalism, during which she won a Peabody Award at MTV News. Her photographs are in many private and public collections, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the J Paul Getty Museum, Harvard Art Museums, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the George Eastman Museum of Photography, and San Francisco’s Pier 24, among others.

Last Updated: 10/5/21