Tom Sherman (artist)

Last updated

Tom Sherman (born August 5, 1947) is an American-Canadian artist working in video, [1] audio, radio, performance, sculpture and text/image. [2] [3] He is also a writer of nonfiction and fiction. He is a recipient of Canada's Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts. [4] He is a professor of video art at Syracuse University.


Early life

Sherman was born in Manistee, Michigan. As a boy he was a committed naturalist, studying and collecting insects with a particular fascination for Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths). His public school education was complemented by his experimentation in amateur radio and electronics (he was licensed as WN8CES), shortwave listening and medium wave DXing. This early involvement with communications technologies evolved into cultural pursuits. He earned a BFA degree from Eastern Michigan University in 1970, majoring in sculpture.

Work with organizations

In 1972 Sherman immigrated to Canada, and later became a Canadian citizen. He settled in Toronto and began working at A Space, one of the first artist-run centres in Canada. He established (with Lisa Steele) a video facility for artists at A Space from 1972 to 1975. Throughout the 1970s he developed and established his practice as a visual and media artist making and showing conceptual text-image works, [5] [6] [7] performance art and video art, [8] [9] and sculptural installations. [10]

During this time, he was also a regular on-air contributor to CBC Radio's Morningside with Peter Gzowski and As It Happens with Barbara Frum. From 1976 to 1978 he directed and edited scores of music videos for Nightmusic, a television talk show on the arts on TVOntario, Toronto. He also curated and produced Afterimage, a 13-week, half-hour program of experimental film and video art on TVOntario. In 1978 he was a researcher and writer for Fast Forward, a TVOntario series on the digital revolution, broadcast extensively on PBS in the USA.

After a brief stint as a visiting professor in 1979–1980 at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, in Halifax, he was a founding editor (with Clive Robertson and Lisa Steele) of Fuse Magazine in Toronto. Sherman represented Canada at Venice Biennale in 1980 in "Canada Video," curated by Bruce Ferguson of the National Gallery of Canada, featuring his video art along with video by Lisa Steele, Colin Campbell, General Idea, Pierre Falardeau and Julien Poulin. [11]

In 1981 Sherman moved to Ottawa, taking a position as Video Officer within the Visual Arts Section at The Canada Council. In 1983 he founded the Media Arts Section of The Canada Council, becoming its first Head of Section, and establishing Council's first grant programs for computer-integrated media. [12] That year the National Gallery of Canada mounted "Cultural Engineering", a ten-year survey of his video, installations and writing, curated by Willard Holmes. [13] [14]

In 1986 Sherman was appointed an International Commissioner for the Venice Biennale: Sherman, Don Foresta, Tomasso Trini and Roy Ascott curated a major exhibition of digital, network art called Ubiqua: Art, Technology and Informatics at the 1986 Venice Biennale. [15] In 1988-89 he worked with Simon Fraser University to develop and launch a research institute about digital technologies for the arts, the Centre for Image and Sound Research. In 1991 he was appointed Director of the School of Art at Syracuse University in central New York, USA. He continues to teach in the Department of Transmedia at Syracuse University, specializing in video art production and media art history.

Art: exhibitions, performance and publishing

Sherman's visual and media art has been featured in scores of exhibitions, festivals and broadcast venues, including the Vancouver Art Gallery, [16] Anthology Film Archives, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Images Festival (Toronto), the National Gallery of Canada, Elektra and the Festival International des Film sur l'Art, [17] Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, Galerie René Blouin (Montreal), [18] Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Ars Electronica (Linz), Wiener Konzerthaus (Vienna), Musée d'art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Documenta X and Kasseler Dokfest (Kassel), LUX Cinema and Tate Britain (London), Montevideo (Amsterdam), the Impakt Festival (Utrecht), In Video (Milan), the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (Madrid), and Transitio_MX (Mexico City).

Faraday Cage installation, Tom Sherman, A Space, Toronto, 1973 Faraday Cage, Tom Sherman, A Space, Toronto, 1973.jpg
Faraday Cage installation, Tom Sherman, A Space, Toronto, 1973

In 1997 he founded Nerve Theory, a recording and performance duo with Viennese musician and composer Bernhard Loibner, and was an on-air contributor to many of radio art programs on Kunstradio, the Austrian Broadcasting Network, and other radio venues internationally from 1997 to 2018. [19]

Sherman began publishing essays and articles in 1972 and has published widely in magazines, print anthologies and web-publications. He has published six monographs, including two anthologies of his texts, Cultural Engineering (edited by Willard Holmes, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 1983) and Before and After the I-Bomb: An Artist in the Information Environment (edited by Peggy Gale, Banff Centre Press, Alberta, 2002).

He has been active in the electronic digital network culture since the early 1980s, actively publishing and interacting on listservs and contemporary social media, including the video file-sharing websites YouTube and Vimeo. [20]


As author

Exhibit catalogues


video still from Exclusive Memory, Tom Sherman, 1987 Video still from Exclusive Memory by Tom Sherman, 1987.png
video still from Exclusive Memory, Tom Sherman, 1987

Public collections (selected)

National Gallery of Canada, Vancouver Art Gallery, Museum of Modern Art (New York), Whitney Museum of American Art, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Musee d'art contemporain (Montreal), Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), Ottawa Art Gallery, Municipality of Ottawa/Carleton, Northwestern University (Illinois), Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (Madrid), Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema (Montreal), University of Toronto, Ryerson University, Dalhousie Art Gallery (Halifax), Winnipeg Art Gallery, External Affairs/Government of Canada (Paris), The Banff Centre (Alberta), Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art/Cornell University, Concordia University Art Gallery, Art Metropole (Toronto), Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (Halifax), Modlin Center for the Arts, University of Richmond (Virginia), The Western Front (Vancouver).


Sherman divides his time between Syracuse, New York and Port Mouton, Nova Scotia.

Related Research Articles

Jan Peacock is a Canadian interdisciplinary artist, curator and writer.

Rebecca Belmore Anishinaabekwe artist

Rebecca Belmore D.F.A. is an interdisciplinary Anishinaabekwe artist who is notable for politically conscious and socially aware performance and installation work. She is Ojibwe and member of Obishikokaang. Belmore currently lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Alex Janvier

Alex Simeon Janvier, LL.D is a First Nation artist in Canada. As a member of the commonly referred to "Indian Group of Seven", Janvier is a pioneer of contemporary Canadian Aboriginal art in Canada.

Bill Vazan is a Canadian artist, known for land art, sculpture, painting and photography. His work has been exhibited in North America and internationally.

Micah Lexier is a Canadian artist and curator. He was educated at the University of Manitoba and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. He is represented by Birch Contemporary (Toronto). He lives and works in Toronto. In 2015 he was awarded the Governor General`s Award for excellence in the Visual Arts.

Suzy Lake

Suzy Lake is an American-Canadian artist based in Toronto, Canada, who is known for her work as a photographer, performance artist and video producer. Using a range of media, Lake explores topics including identity, beauty, gender and aging. She is regarded as a pioneering feminist artist and a staunch political activist.

Shary Boyle D.F.A. is a contemporary Canadian visual artist working in the mediums of sculpture, drawing, painting and performance art. She lives and works in Toronto.

Ron Terada is a Vancouver-based artist working in various media, including painting, photography, video, sound, books, and graphic design.

Stephen Andrews is a Canadian artist based in Toronto. Born in 1956 in Sarnia, Ontario, Andrews is known for using various media to explore matters such as memory and loss, and technology, and its representations.

Ursula Johnson is a multidisciplinary Mi’kmaq artist based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Her work combines the Mi’kmaq tradition of basket weaving with sculpture, installation, and performance art. In all its manifestations her work operates as didactic intervention, seeking to both confront and educate her viewers about issues of identity, colonial history, tradition, and cultural practice. In 2017 she won the Sobey Art Award.

Mary Anne Barkhouse is a jeweller and sculptor residing in Haliburton, Ontario, Canada. She belongs to the Nimpkish band of the Kwakiutl First Nation.

Sarah Anne Johnson is a Canadian photo-based, multidisciplinary artist working in installation, bronze sculpture, oil paint, video, performance, and dance.

Susan McEachern is an American/Canadian artist. McEachern is best known for her photography, which frequently includes text. Her work follows the feminist idea of "the personal is political," as she often combines images of her own life and personal space to investigate and comment on themes of socialization, gender, sexuality, and the natural world. McEachern has also been a professor at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University since 1979.

Carol Wainio is a Canadian painter. Her work, known for its visual complexity and monochrome color palette, has been exhibited in major art galleries in Canada, the U.S., Europe and China. She has won multiple awards, including the Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts.

Monica Tap is a Canadian painter, artist and educator. She lives in Toronto, Ontario, and teaches at the University of Guelph. She is known for engaging and challenging conventions concerning landscape and still-life painting.

Peggy Gale Canadian artist

Peggy Gale is an independent Canadian curator, writer, and editor. Gale studied Art History and received her Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History from the University of Toronto in 1967. Gale has published extensively on time-based works by contemporary artists in numerous magazines and exhibition catalogues. She was editor of Artists Talk 1969-1977, from The Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax (2004) and in 2006, she was awarded the Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts. Gale was the co-curator for Archival Dialogues: Reading the Black Star Collection in 2012 and later for the Biennale de Montréal 2014, L’avenir , at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. Gale is a member of IKT, AICA, The Writers' Union of Canada, and has been a contributing editor of Canadian Art since 1986.

Diana Thorneycroft is a Canadian artist based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, whose work has exhibited nationally and internationally. Thorneycroft works primarily in photography, drawing, and sculpture/installation. Her work blurs the lines between gendered bodies by employing phalluses.

Nell Tenhaaf is a Canadian artist, teacher, writer and feminist.

Gu Xiong (artist)

Gu Xiong is a Canadian contemporary artist.

Nancy Tousley is a senior art critic, journalist, art writer and independent curator whose practice has included writing for a major daily newspaper, art magazines, and exhibition catalogues.


  1. Elwes, Catherine (26 April 2006). Video Art, A Guided Tour: A Guided Tour. I.B.Tauris. pp. 190–. ISBN   978-0-85773-595-9.
  2. Lovejoy, Margot. Postmodern Currents: Art and Artists in the Age of Electronic Media, 2nd edition, Prentice Hill (New Jersey), 1997, pp. 118, 216-217
  3. Shanken, Edward. Art and Electronic Media (Themes and Movements), Phaidon Press (London, UK), February 2009, p. 29
  4. "Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts announced". Alberta Parks and Recreation Association website. March 10, 2010
  5. Monk, Philip. "Tom Sherman Presenting Text: Animals, Weather, Car Crashes and Communication", in Parachute (Montreal, Quebec), March 1983, pp. 26-32.
  6. Monk, Philip. "Tele-Transgression" in Is Toronto Burning?: Three Years in the Making (and Unmaking) of the Toronto Art Scene, Black Dog Publishing (London, UK), 2016, pp. 181, 222, 223, 224, 245, 246, 254, 255: Tom Sherman's works reproduced, pp. 214, 222, 224, 225, 226, 227.
  7. White, Kenneth. "Absolute Feedback: Notes on the Discursive Spaces of Video Art circa 1976," San Francisco Arts Quarterly (San Francisco, California), Vol. 13, May–July 2013.
  8. Blouin, Rene. "See the Text Comes to Read You," in Centerfold (Toronto), December 1978, pp. 19-22.
  9. Gale, Peggy. "There's Something Perverse about this Relationship", in Videotexts, Wilfrid Laurier University Press (Waterloo, Ontario), 1995, pp. 128-138.
  10. Bonin, Vincent. "Tom Sherman: Faraday Cage," in Documentary Protocols/Protocoles documentaires (1967-1975), (Montreal: Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery), Spring 2010, pp. 36, 112, 124
  11. Quaranta, Domenico (12 August 2014). Beyond New Media Art. pp. 54–. ISBN   978-1-291-86157-0.
  12. Davidge, Michael. "Cultural Engineering and Public Relations," in Cultural Engineering, ed. Michael Davidge, SAW Video (Ottawa), Fall 2016, English and French, pp. 1-9. ( ISBN   978-0-9877178-2-5)
  13. Holmes, Willard, editor, Cultural Engineering, National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), 1983 [ISBN 0-88884-498-0]
  14. Grundmann, Heidi, editor, Art Telecommunication, Western Front (Vancouver), in English, German and French, 1984, pp. 68-80 ISBN   0-920974-08-2
  15. Sherman, Tom. "Amare la Macchina e Naturale" ("Machine Love is Natural"), in Art, Technology and Informatics, La Biennale di Venezia 1986, (Venice, Italy), in Italian only, June 1986, pp. 43-45 ( ISBN   88-208-0337-2)
  16. "Dated Conceptualism: Toronto, London, Guelph" Wood, William, Traffic: Conceptual Art in Canada 1965-1980 (Vancouver Art Gallery et al), 2012, pp. 64-65 ISBN   978-1-895442-88-5
  17. Gingras, Nicole "Lines of Thought: A Tribute to Tom Sherman", International Festival of Films on Art, No. 23, Montreal (Quebec),10-20 Mars 2005, in French and English, pp. 146-150
  18. Campbell, James D. "Intelligent Artifacts: Technics and Praxis in Tom Sherman's Art", C Magazine (Toronto), #26, 1990.
  19. Gingras, Nicole, editor "Resonances," in Sound in Canadian Contemporary Art, Editions Artexte (Montreal), February 2004, in English and French, pp. 18-21, 22-25.
  20. Langill, Caroline Seck, "Me Calling Him—Him Calling Me—Tom Sherman's Recent Video Work" in C Magazine (Toronto), No. 112, Winter 2011, pp. 16-21
  21. "Tom Sherman". Governor General of Canada. Retrieved 21 August 2022.