Job done if it makes you stop and stare
Toni Tonae inherited her gift from her mother, but her artistry is her own.
It’s gotten her noticed — first by her peers and then by Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art where she is part of 441: 4 Artists, 4 Styles, 1 Show.
Part of the attraction is the detail involved. With one of her pieces, Mountain Priestess, she spent a day and a half drawing “about five hundred thousand to a million blades of grass”.
“I’ve always been interested in art,” said Toni whose early lessons came from her mother, Cathy Ingemann. “She used to draw me crocodiles as a little girl. I think just watching her draw and seeing how graceful and easy it was for her encouraged me.”
Although “very passionate” about her art, she considered it a hobby; her only lessons were as a student at the Berkeley Institute.
“As I grew up, I took it more seriously,” she said. “I became more aware of the world and knew my personality — I can’t be in a space where I don’t feel happy, joyful and passionate, doing something I love.
“I realised art was something I could do; when I was feeling low it was a way to express myself without having to talk.”
Her sketches took on purpose.
Friends who were tattoo artists started giving her tips and she shared her work at two events in quick succession: the Bermuda Society of Arts’ Members’ Winter Show in October and the Bermuda Economic and Development Corporation’s Inspire Bermuda Weekend the next month.
“I realised I can make money from this and make an impact, so [I started] putting my art out there; I realised it was something I needed to do,” Toni said.
“One of my friends works at Masterworks and the Inspire event triggered her contacting me.”
Then came a meeting with Flora Goodall, the gallery’s special exhibitions and events co-ordinator, who asked her to produce some original pieces for the exhibit.
Toni, 18, decided she “might as well take the challenge”.
“It wasn’t about people liking my art,” she said. “My art is different from anything I’ve seen in Bermuda.
“Basically, I created [my pieces] to strike emotion in people; to stir up their feelings and their thought.
“I want to influence people, to open up their mind so that we’re having these conversations, so we all become more enlightened.”
Six pieces of her art hang as part of the exhibit. Many who attended the January 9 opening were amazed that someone so young had created them.
“People just stood and stared,” Toni said. “It was their brain turning, they were thinking about what they got from the art. [What I believe is] if I see it made you stop and stare, I’m content I did my job.
“A lot of people were trying to find out my vision behind [my art]. [Part of it was] to show the passage of knowledge of ancestors, how our ancestors pass over knowledge, so we don’t repeat history.
“A lot are about protection. Just being one with yourself, being with nature and understanding who you are.
“Everything has a vibration, an energy and I try to make sure I manifest great things all the time. I feel like I definitely manifested with these last three shows.”
Until recently, a landscaper with the parks department, opportunities have opened up since she left.
“I was starting to feel tired — emotionally and mentally. I knew I was not on my path I was meant to be on.”
She is considering work as a tattoo artist and has plans to put her art on clothes and other merchandise.
“I’ll probably start painting more,” she said. “I’ve drawn up designs for friends. I would like to do tattoos. I’m looking into it.
“Ascended Creativity is my brand for my artwork. It’s art that makes you feel as if you’re in your spiritual element.
“You’re not going to see pictures of a sunset. It’s art that makes you want to sit there and stare. Something that makes you think and feel it’s different. I get so many feelings, emotions and stories from it.
“I’m telling a story that also shows my journey. It’s a mental peek into how I’m feeling over a period of time.”
• Reach Toni Tonae on Instagram, @ascendedcreativity, or firstname.lastname@example.org. 441: 4 Artists, 4 Styles, 1 Show runs at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art through February 10
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