Looking but not seeing
Discrimination, homelessness, injustice, and unmet needs are issues we observe but not everyone devotes their lives to finding solutions.
In 1983, Toni’s children, who were in preschool at the time, opened HER eyes to the growing problem of homelessness and hunger. Once she began really looking at the issue, it was clear that she had to do something to try to feed those in the community that were hungry. So her first social service project was formed, SOVA Food Pantry.
Concurrently, Toni was working as a sculptor with artist/teacher, Jonathan Hirshfeld. She had found a passion for sculpture when still in high school and this continued through college at Stephens and then into design at Art Center College of Design. The decision to put art aside and devote her time to housing and homelessness was not difficult. She knew that lives were at stake and she attacked issues with tenacity. What Toni thought would be a short career turned into 30 years of working in the non-profit world, fighting battles for homeless veterans.
In 2012, she returned to her passion for sculpture, working with teachers/sculptors Tanya Ragir and Jonathan Bickart and life drawing teacher/artist George Small. Toni also attended a Master Portrait Workshop with sculptor/teacher and author Philippe Faraut.
"Social justice is the core of my life’s work. Witnessing unfairness and inequality has driven me to create community based programs that not only heal suffering, but help us to understand and really see the pain of others. As an artist I integrate this passion for social justice, assisting the viewer not just to look, but to feel the life circumstances of other people."
All of her work begins in clay and pieces are either fired and painted or have been cast into other materials such as plaster, resin, liquid stone. She is a figurative artist but has introduced organic objects and industrial finishes so work becomes more contemporary. She clearly shows knowledge of the human form.
Toni is influenced by the men and woman she has met and the dramatic stories of survival. Her current body of work includes “issues” such as dementia, depression, solitary confinement and military sexual trauma (MST). A description of the issues can be found on the website. Some of the information comes directly from people whose lives have been impacted by unjust policies or discrimination.
“Looking but not seeing” is what is driving Toni’s work. She now wants to tell the story through her sculpture and help people to not just look at her art, but to really see the emotion and sometimes pain of others.