Among the flowers in her great grandmother’s garden with a Monarch’s legs delicately clinging to her small finger, Sheila Metcalf Tobin recognized she was experiencing beauty via the connection/interaction with another living thing. Over the wandering journey of her life this encounter and many others like it accumulated into a profound teaching too powerful for her to ignore. In her most recent body of work she is exploring the relationships and connections between human, animal and plant forms and drawing these forms together in compositions conveying the complexity and beauty of humanity and its’ wild counterparts.
Sheila studied drawing, sculpture and fiber in her formal education and received her BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art and her MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago. Today her art education continues through maintaining and engaged studio practice and teaching others, as a community college drawing instructor at Merritt College in Oakland, CA. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband and two children.
As a very young girl a sensation awoke within me. Much later I was able to name it as an awareness of my intrinsic connection to other. The universe and all its contents: elements, animals, plants-- all living, breathing, growing, blooming--literally vibrating with signals and suggestions of similarity, coaxing me to listen, to see, to touch, to taste, and ultimately to empathize, embrace and participate.
Walking through the world paying attention in this way, I have found myself repeatedly amazed and fascinated by forms that are familiar, known kinesthetically, for how they resemble my body or my bodily experiences. The accumulation of these physical encounters has allowed for a deep knowing to occur within me. This physical knowing reaffirms what science has proved to us about evolution and our adaptations and human development as a result of biophysical environments and ignites within me, as it has in others, the perpetual search for enlightenment and connection.
In my artwork, I record and collect everyday experiences, interactions and inspirations and use observation-based drawing methods to convey the connections I see within these encounters. I illustrate the relationships I see, imagine or believe to exist between people, plants, animals and how we might continue to evolve to more overtly display analogous ideas, emotions and experiences.
The work of the artists Frida Kahlo, Judy Chicago and Hung Liu have been of significant inspiration to the development of my own artwork. In their art and writings I discovered both the conviction to trust one’s individual experience, sensuality and intuition, and I also found the powerful beauty and healing that comes in relating stories of human experience.