The characters in Tip Toland’s hyper realistic sculptures are fragile creatures that find themselves at the end of adulthood or at the beginning of childhood. Those stages in life have a certain vulnerability, isolation and innocence in common. Toland attempts to demonstrate the decline preceding death, and the increased separation from others it brings. Their expressions are unengaged and convey a sense of deep psychological detachment that is sad and enigmatic as well as dignified by the process of natural aging. In his article for, Ceramics: Art and Perception, Glen Brown states, “[The works] weigh upon [the viewer] for the simple reason that they reflect the profound, inevitable solitude that envelops the beginning and the end of life.”
While exploring age and aging, Toland’s work attempts to give voice to inner psychological and spiritual states of being. What is of primary importance to her is that the figures contain particular aspects of humanity, which they mirror back to the viewer. It’s the fragility and transient aspect of mankind that the artist is after. That is one reason for choosing very old or very young subjects; they both portray innocence as well as complexity. While her subjects are sometimes self-portraits, they are meant to convey universal truths about humanity, society and the self.
The hyper realism of Toland’s figures comes from her attention to detail and unique use of materials. Using an encaustic technique, Toland creates a waxy finish for the skin that mimics real flesh. She even goes so far as to incorporate actual human hair into the works. The porcelain eyes create a doll-like realism that is both haunting and entrancing, while carefully defined wrinkles, skin tone, tooth enamel, and bone structure, are remarkably realistic.