Oshawa-based artist Toni Hamel views the process of art-making as an empowering, cathartic tool to tackle dark issues and questions. Although informed by her personal experiences and infused with autobiographical notes, her work tackles universal themes such as gender roles, self-image, identity, and self-acceptance.
Inspired by the banality and confinement of domestic life, Hamel explains that The lingering “investigates women’s aspirations and in particular our quest for freedom from cultural, religious, societal, familial and psychological expectations and restrictions, whether deliberate or unintentional, real or perceived.” This body of work, imbued with symbolism, irony and satire, is an illustrated commentary not only on Hamel’s own life, but of the shared experiences of women.
Hamel’s subjects are explored in a monochromatic and delicate way through drawing, mixed media, sculpture, and installation. Her drawings in particular have a vintage quality that makes the subjects timeless. The artist uses media selected to add layers of meaning to the overall composition. Vintage objects representing the passage of time, and materials traditionally associated with women’s crafts like embroidery, sewing, or watercolour, are included. Text also plays an important role in Hamel’s practice. She uses prominently displayed titles as a means to pose questions, playing with the viewer’s expectations.
Hamel is open about her personal struggles as a woman and her work gives voice to the turmoil that can be associated with depression and the daily domestic grind. Although seemingly critical of domestic life, Hamel’s artwork is the artist’s peace-making with the conflict between her creative impulse and her domestic obligations—proving that her roles as wife, mother, and artist can coexist.
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