Constance Thalken (/tah-kin/; born 1952 in Nebraska) is an American intermedia artist known foremost for her photographic explorations of the complexities of loss. She has gained recognition for her ability to carefully convey subject matter that simultaneously engages the viewer perceptually, emotionally, viscerally, and intellectually.
Thalken was born in Columbus, Nebraska. She has lived in the Chicago area, the coalfields of Eastern Kentucky, and Knoxville, Tennessee. She earned a BA in Psychology from Barat College and completed her MFA in Photography at Yale University in 1988. Upon graduation she was awarded the Yale School of Art's Alice Kimball English Traveling Fellowship to photograph in the Yukon Territory of Canada. In 1990 she accepted a professorship with the Welch School of Art and Design at Georgia State University (GSU) in Atlanta where she continues to reside. She was awarded Professor Emerita status when she retired from GSU in 2018.
Many of Thalken's influences lie beyond the realm of photography. She is inspired by readings in philosophy, anthropology, fiction, poetry, and critical writings. These sources shape her work and provide further depth to her investigations. Thalken states about her series Eyes Open Slowly, which was created over the course of three years in a taxidermy shop outside of Atlanta, "Whether photographing animals in the process of "becoming" or deploying abstraction to complicate the reading of surface, the work uncovers our longing to connect to the natural world. At the same time, it questions our urge to possess and immortalize nature through the act of killing."
Thalken has received numerous honors and awards for her work. Her work is in the permanent collections of the High Museum of Art, The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, Yale University Library, The Bunnen Collection, the Zuckerman Museum of Art, and Dean, Ringers, Morgan and Lawton of Orlando, FL, along with other private collections.