This has been a big year for sculptor Tyzo David Toccalino.
He is regaining his strength after a two-year bout with cancer, he and his wife, Maggie, got married in August, and on Dec. 10 he will have his work on display at the Canadian Sculptor Centre in Toronto in a special showing. He was chosen to join the centre – the only sculptor to be selected in 2008.
That exhibition runs Dec. 10 to Jan. 9. Because the centre was moving last year, Toccalino will be sharing exhibition space with the 2007 nominee, Bastien Martel, of Toronto.
And if all that activity is not enough, the access to his home on Grandview Drive in Fergus is being dug up, and visitors have to be selective about when they arrive – even though the road is supposed to be open to local traffic.
Toccalino’s home is filled with his work – and also with odd shaped and numerous cacti and other plants. He sculpts exclusively in soft steel, and there are a number of influences in his work. He also uses old bits of farm machinery and other bits of old metal to create unique pieces that can be stunning as well as decorative.
He has noted that he has always had a fascination with found objects, and he spent many of his formative years beachcombing the shores of Lake Ontario. Henry Moore was an early influence.
Toccalino was born in Oakville in 1950, studied art at Sheridan College there and then accepted an advanced sculpture program at St. Lawrence College, in Kingston.
In 1975, he entered four collages and one assemblage into a juried art exhibition a the Fergus Fall Fair, where the late Ken Danby was a juror. All five of Toccalino’s pieces were included in the final exhibition, and Danby offered to act and an esthetic reference for an aid to artist grant.
The following year, his work was accepted at the Toronto City Hall Art show.
Still, like many artists, Toccalino was forced to earn a living outside of his media to support a young family, while still being determined to continue with his work.
He entered a welder-fitter program and learned to weld metal and received his welder-fitter papers. He got more training and worked at the Bruce nuclear plant for three years, and met the strict standards required by that industry.
He then moved to a company that made manufactured compaction equipment and worked in the design, fabrication, and finishing of those products, which turned out to be good training for his art.
From 1992 to he worked fitting and manipulating cast iron and aluminum molds creating three-dimensional acoustic insulators for the automotive industry. His work can be seen on the hood lines of many cars produced between 1992 and 2002, including the Viper, Prowler, and most Chrysler and General Motors products.
During the 20 years in industry, Toccalino continued to produce metal sculpture, and was in the Fergus-Elora Studio tour a couple of years.
Two years ago, he submitted some of this work to the 8th annual Emerging Sculptors Exhibition and two of them were accepted.
“It was really quite validating for me,” he remembered. He had submitted two very different pieces and they had been created nearly 20 years apart.
It was also around that time that he was diagnosed with cancer, and he said those gruelling bouts of radiation and surgery left him weak.
“I’m still recovering from cancer. I’m still getting my strength back,” he said.
But, with his marriage in August to Maggie, and acceptance by the society , things are again turning his way.
Dozens of sculptures are scattered through his home, some coloured, and others in a metal sheen.
“I do it, I love it – I hope the commissions will come,” he said of his work and his coming show.
He also laughed when he remembered that he took some aptitude tests in 1992 and out of 1,001 possible occupations, “it came up metal sculptor.”
Toccalino will sell from his home, and people can obtain a viewing at 9 Grandview Avenue, off Elora Street. He asks, though, that they call first for an appointment – to ensure they can get through and the timing is right for everyone. He can be reached at 519-843-5472.