Intriguing Paper Art by Kerry Toomey, Indigenous Artist

My friend in paper, Licia Politis in Sydney, Australia, introduced me to the paper art of Kerry Toomey after attending two recent exhibits in which Kerry's work was featured. She was one of the included artists in a First Nations Exhibition at Hazelhurst Art Centre where her tissue paper hat and face sculptures were displayed. A separate solo exhibit of paper shoes, Munduhii, took place at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre.


tissue paper old fashioned shoes

I asked Kerry via Instagram to tell us about her paper art:


"I am a Gamilaroi woman who grew up in Pilliga, New South Wales and currently live in Sydney. I have been inspired by stories of family. My art grapples with themes of Indigenous displacement and oppression, as well as survival and resistance."


tissue paper hats on display on table

"I work across a range of mediums and use a variety of symbolic materials to speak on these topics, such as tissue paper, lace, ochre, echidna quills, emu feathers, snake skin, quandong seeds, leaves, and flowers."


tissue paper face sculptures of two children

"I was a classroom teacher for over thirty years before I went to UNSW and graduated from COFA, now called Art and Design."


"I'm now retired and working full-time on creating new and interesting artworks, and have enrolled at Hazelhurst Gallery in the Art on Paper class to be around like-minded people. I enjoy making art from paper because it is so versatile, ranging from sculptures to paintings. I'm still learning how to tell my story through art, especially with the use of paper."


yellow and white tissue paper shoe sculpture decorated with small white beads

"I mainly use regular facial tissues. They are a delicate and fragile material, designed to be thrown away, and therefore suggestive of the fragility of Aboriginal culture and the way it is often discarded and devalued by non-Indigenous Australia."


tissue paper and feather hat sculpture

"I have exhibited in New South Wales since 2015 and am continuing with a variety of artworks, some sculptures, watercolour, mixed mediums, and photography."


Hazelhurst Gallery - Art on Paper finalist, joint winner of local artist award and people's choice 

2020: First winner of Casula Powerhouse Aboriginal Scholarship Award, 2021; solo show Munduhii
2021 Invited to participate in a group exhibition at Hazelhurst Gallery - Wuliwulawala: Dharawal Women Sharing Stories, celebrating the resilience and creativity of First Nations women in the Dharawal Nation of southern Sydney.
white tissue paper shoe
From the Casula Powerhouse website: "Munduhii (meaning ‘shoes’ in Gamilaraay, her language group) engages in the stories that wrap themselves around the feet, an essential part of each and everyone. For Toomey they represent her strong connection to Country and culture. They are inspired by stories of her family who grew up on the outskirts of Pilliga and incorporate emu feathers, quills and snakeskin that have been passed down to her.

shoe sculptures made of facial tissues

Kerry explains the exhibit: "I have created a selection of munduhii in a range of styles, all moulded around shoes that have been used, discarded, favoured or are simply aspirational. Some of my munduhii have language maps in the sole to remind me that my mother’s language has a place. Others are missing the sole which for me symbolises the removal of the metaphorical barrier between me and my country."
paper hat and paper shoe sculptures
"The lace in my work, which creates such intricate pattern, is a symbol of Colonial Australia. Lace was prominent in the fashions of the time and some of my family members sewed and wore typical white lace dress, skirts and hats."
In progress tissue paper baby's head sculpture
"This exhibition also features cherished portraits of my family “ochre’d up.” Despite being staged, these portraits allowed my family and I to engage in a personal time of reflection, whether by remembering loved ones who had passed on, celebrating their connection to each other or looking to the future."
paper art exhibit featuring photographs of Aboriginal women wearing tissue paper hat sculptures

From the Hazelhurst Arts Centre website: "First Nations women have always been keepers of culture and play a central role in family and community and passing on culture to younger generations. The artists and contributors in Wuliwulawala were Dharawal women or women from other Nations who live on Dharawal land in southern Sydney."


Enjoy this video that details the Wuliwulawala: Dharawal Women Sharing Stories exhibition. Kerry presents her paper art at the 11:12 minute mark.



You can view more of Kerry's engrossing work via her Instagram feed, @kerry.toomey



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Ann Martin
Ann Martin

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  1. Hi Ann, Did you change host sites or something for your blog? Just double checking even though the link I clicked on in my email did bring me here. Thanks Pat S

    1. I'm glad you clicked over to ask, Pat, thanks. New post alerts used to go out via Feedburner, but Google is discontinuing that service. You're now receiving my alerts via instead. Hopefully it will be a smooth transition for everyone.

    2. Ann, thanks for letting me know, lol. I hadn't heard they were discontinuing Feedburner.

  2. Amazing artwork and good to see the Indiginous artist featured.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the post, Bronwyn, and thanks for your comment.


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