National Gallery Ottawa, Human Rights Seminar

Aboriginal Human Rights Art Seminar 2006, in collaboration with Amnesty International, was conducted at the National Gallery of Canada.


During March 2006,  Graham Thompson in collaboration with Amnesty International, conducted an Aboriginal Human Rights Art Seminar at the National Gallery of Canada.

By illustrating the spiritual connection Aboriginal People have to the Earth, Thompson in conjunction with a speaker from Amnesty International, worked with students to create Aboriginal Human Rights themed paintings and drawings based on Medicine Wheel principles and archival images of Native American life prior to colonization.

Medicine Wheel Beliefs and Principles were discussed using an interactive video based presentation North-South-East-West. The presentation North-South-East-West (NSEW), with accompanying talk, has an introduction that illustrates Ontario’s past, its present day mass media culture, and its technological future.


The main section of NSEW begins in the east where the earth gives birth to a new day, to a new life and to the feeling of deep peace and belongingness. As well the east represents the first challenge in life – the test of survival. The animation celebrates the tiny frail flowers that live another day and open to greet the sun.

Birth, Sunrise, Spring and the Challenge of Survival

The eastern section is followed by illustrations of the earth’s southern personality. The south brings the heat of the summer, the bloom of adolescence and the quest for a vision. The south represents the time we are given to discover our meaning and the ability to hold the power of this vision as our secret.


The southern section is followed by meditations on the west. The west represents adulthood, autumn and the path of the vision discovered in our youth. In autumn the cool winds of the west signal the end of summer and a time of preparation – an adult time. In this direction or season of life, we learn that the path of our vision is not easy. The difficulties come like thunder clouds, yet they bring rains that “wash away yesterday” and allow us to renew ourselves and continue our work as in adulthood we realize that the sun will set before our path is complete.


The piece completes the cycle of directions, seasons and stages of life in the north. The north represents winter, old age and the wisdom of the path of the vision. It is at this stage that our view of life is simple and uncomplicated, like a landscape where blankets of snow hide the complexities of the terrain. This is the time to have courage to live and embrace the changes of the final stage of life.


The North South East West new media series can be summarized by mapping the geographic and climatic themes onto a matrix as shown below




Old Age

















Hope, Optimism and Belonging

Bloom and Identity

Westerly Winds Bring Clouds

Life Review Like a Snow Covered Forest

ARC Gallery Chicago, Talking Portraits

Talking Portraits at ARC Gallery of Chicago in November  2006.


Tompalski’s Talking Portrait installation opened at the ARC Gallery of Chicago on November 6, 2006. It was covered by CANTV and later broadcast November 19th at 3pm on CAN TV 21.


The installation of 12 portaits, 6 videos and 7 portable CD Players were exhibited from November 1 to December 3, 2006 at 734 N. Milwaukee (corner of Milwaukee & Carpenter) Chicago USA. Videos of Graham, Jane, Carol, Marlene, Annick and Tony were displayed in a continuous loop on a video monitor at the centre of the installation. The corresponding audio tracks were made available on portable CD players so that visitors could listen to individual sound tracks as they view the 36″x 36″ portraits from the series. See the image below.


The Talking Portrait Installation Overview

The installation includes audio, video and painted portraits. The portraits are painted from a live model sitting for approximately six hours. The audio portion is edited from the comments, questions and reflections made by the model during the sitting. The time-lapse photography records the development of the portrait.


Typically, the painted portraits, exhibited as a matrix of faces, are inscribed with bold brush strokes and adventurous colours, that capture the psychological experience of the subjects. Tompalski’s work is concerned with intuition, interpretation, and  co-construction (the unconscious dialogue experienced during the portrait sitting.) Sherry Tompalski  states “To understand ourselves we look at others for clues as to what we are experiencing. The human face conveys a rich complexity of personal history, which we feel in an inexplicable way as an impression or an intuition. “


The sound tracks, were developed by splicing together the unscripted comments between the subject and artist with computer music and an assortment of sampled sounds added.


This dialogue allows for a momentary glimpse into the process of co-construction through the model’s verbal dialogue and the painter’s visual expression. The time-lapse photography displays the development of the portrait. The hypnotic effect helps the audience take the time to look and become engaged with the painted portrait.


Thanks to our Supporters

Special thanks goes to Galeries Saw of Ottawa Canada, the Ontario Arts Council for their support in developing this show and to the coverage we received from CANTV who filmed the opening reception.


ARC Gallery Backgrounder

The ARC Gallery is a not-for-profit, artist run gallery located in Chicago’s River West Neighborhood. ARC is an internationally recognized alternative space and has been an integral part of the Chicago art community since 1973. The ARC Gallery’s mission is to bring innovative, emerging and/or experimental visual art to a wide range of viewers, and to provide a nurturing atmosphere for the continued development of artistic potential and dialogue.