A crowning, healing touch

tampa A sculptor who believes creative arts can heal expresses herself in hair.

By Arleen Spenceley Times Staff Writer
Published October 19, 2007

She scattered seashells about a bunch of billowing blue waves. She topped the sculpture with a starfish, added a plant anyone would see in the water and finished it off with a sea horse nestled next to her ear.

That's right, her ear.

Terry Niedzialek, an artist from Pennsylvania, created the sculpture.

She called it Ocean Love.

And she wore it on her head.

Niedzialek, who will visit Tampa next week, is a hair sculptor. She's also a painter, a shiatsu massage therapist and a dancer. She says creative arts can heal, and healing arts can inspire creativity. So she uses both in her work.

"This is really about getting in touch with yourself," said Niedzialek, 51.

In the early 1980s, she went to school for painting and sculpting at New York Institute of Technology. She graduated with her bachelor's degree in fine arts and got to work, creating sculptures and paintings in a realistic abstract style. She also started to sculpt in her hair and in the hair on the heads of willing subjects.

But her health became an issue. Niedzialek experienced chronic fatigue and found no help from traditional medicine. So she explored alternative methods.

"The type of shiatsu massage work that I practice now really worked more for me than anything else," she said. And when she started doing yoga and meditating in addition to getting massages, her fatigue started to fade.

Even after she felt better, Niedzialek continued using massage, yoga and meditation to remain healthy. Six years ago, she decided to give back to others what she'd learned by getting her shiatsu massage therapy license.

Once she could call herself a professional in both the creative arts and the healing arts, she began to fuse the two into a workshop she calls "Paint Your Dream Vision."

Participants in the workshop use yoga, meditation and self-massage to relax. And after they're relaxed, they use paint and pastels to create artwork.

"The finished pieces are really a surprise to the people who created them," Niedzialek said.

But the art for which Niedzialek is best known is the art she sculpts in hair.

"Terry has taken something very unusual - hair, cosmetology, sculpting," said Lynn Norton, director of education for the Arts Council of Hillsborough County, a publicly funded organization that invited Niedzialek to Tampa. "She carries it further to make a point, as all artists do. They look at ways to expand our mind."

Some of the unusual sculptures Niedzialek has created feature bright colors, a wedding cake, birds' nests and the twin towers. Sometimes, she plans meticulously with sketches. Other times, she said, she creates spontaneously with nothing preconceived but her theme.

While she's in Tampa, she plans to give the public a chance to participate in her art and healing workshops, and she plans to show students at Orange Grove Magnet Middle School and Blake Magnet High School how she sculpts hair.

"I think that students are absolutely stunned," Norton said. "I would consider her to be a world-class artist. I know whatever she does is going to be of high caliber."

Arleen Spenceley can be reached at (813) 269-5301 or aspenceley@sptimes.com.


.if you go

Artist at work

Artist Terry Niedzialek plans two public appearances in Tampa: a "Paint Your Dream Vision" workshop at 1 p.m. Tuesday, at the Life Enrichment Center, 9401 N Boulevard, (813) 932-0241; and at 12:45 p.m. Wednesday at the Ruskin Senior Center, 901 Sixth St. SE. (813) 672-1106.

On Thursday, Niedzialek will create a hair sculpture for students at Orange Grove Magnet Middle School and Friday , she'll create another at Blake Magnet High School.