Monday, March 6, 2017

Sherry Tompalski - March 2017 - Artist of the Month

Artist Statement
I have been blessed with two parallel careers over the past 25 years: psychiatry and
art. While they are intrinsically different fields, the work of each has informed the

I assessed and treated adolescents, adults, couples, and families, and also worked for
the military treating soldiers. Throughout, I maintained my art practice working on
projects often with my husband, and invariably exploring visually, psychological
concepts, questions and understanding.

I experienced my art and my art career as vitalizing my work with patients, while my
psychiatric career underlined the importance of people feeling understood and
understandable. Consequently, in my art I often wanted to “put myself in another s'
shoes”, maintaining that the individual's world or point of view is worth looking at and
paying attention to.

The Boxers were inspired by the Female Afghan Boxing Club in Kabul who train in
the basement of the Kabul stadium where the Taliban used to publicly execute women
accused of adultery. Sadaf Rahimi, a female boxer from Afghanistan who made history
by being the first Afghan female boxer to be invited to the Olympics recounts, “In
Afghanistan, there is so much violence and prejudice towards women. Because of
that, when I come here and box, I feel freedom. Here we are all girls, and we talk with
each other and practice. Here is freedom for me and for every girl.”

This work began as large graphite drawings that were torn up and reassembled with
fragments of musical score, portraying the process of coming undone, reforming and
coming together. The Boxers incorporate a fragmented, difficult history which
hopefully with healing and strength becomes music.

The Talking Portrait Series (50 in total) were developed from live sittings of refugees
who were also artists themselves. Their comments made while sitting, as well as
time-lapse photography of the developing portraits are presented in video form with
the final portraits and have been exhibited nationally and internationally.

I do not believe we give people a voice, anymore than we can empower people.
However, when we listen in an authentic way people develop a voice and experience
themselves as more effective.

Ultimately, I hope my work helps to contribute to an environment that embodies trust
wherein people can feel their needs are legitimate and experience themselves and the
world as a safer place to live in.

I thank the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the City of Ottawa for their
financial support of these projects.
Sherry Tompalski

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