The Center Awards: Director’s Choice Award 1st Place: Lesia Maruschak
Congratulations to Lesia Maruschak for her First Place win in CENTER’S Director’s Choice Award for her project, The Maria Project. The Choice Awards recognize outstanding photographers working in all processes and subject matter. Images can be singular or part of a series. Winners receive admission to Review Santa Fe portfolio reviews and participation in a winner’s exhibition at Pictura Gallery in Bloomington, IN.
Monica Allende, Artistic Director, Getxo Photo and Independent Curator shares her insights:
I have been very impressed by the overall quality of the submissions. The works represented a wide range of visual narratives, conceptual perspectives and thought processes. It was inspiring to see stories artistically reframing topics at the core of human inquiry and quotidianity contributing to their originality.
The winner “The Maria Project” by Lesia Maruschak is a visual response to the Holodomor in Ukraine where millions died of famine in 1932-33 following the implementation of Stalin’s agricultural policies. Maruschak’s work reflects on the visual memory of history, and the role of the artist in the decolonization of narratives which are critical issues in photography debate.
It has been an enriching experience to discover previously unknown works which are now firmly included in my knowledge vault.
Monica Allende is an independent curator, consultant, strategist and educator. She is the Artistic Director of GetxoPhoto Photo Festival and Landskrona Foto Festival she has collaborated with WeTransfer as a Creative Producer and Consultant, she was the director of FORMAT17 International Photography Festival, she collaborated with Screen Projects and is producing and curating several multidisciplinary projects with artists and digital platforms worldwide.
The Maria Project
The Maria Project memorializes the Ukrainian genocide of 1932-1933, also known as the Holodomor. The word Holodomor is a combination of the Ukrainian words for hunger (holod) and extermination (mor). It is a complex, highly debated, historical event. There are many vested interests, and hence many diverging stories. Eyewitness accounts attest to the fact that the famine was political and intentional; a state-sponsored assault on a single ethnic group as part of the Soviet Union’s new socio-economic model that required the subjugation of a sizable population whose national consciousness stood in the way of the new order.
As a Canadian artist of Ukrainian descent, I struggle to make sense of this event that has shaped my identity and that of my community. How is it that we move from an intellectual and emotional experience to a lasting shift in human conscience and morality? I believe that empathy is the critical factor; creating links between visitors, their lives, and the past with its associated trauma.
The project utilizes three kinds of images from series entitled RED, TRANSFIGURATION and COUNTING. A fictional album of Maria’s life offers an illusionary sense of order while pointing to the impending horror. Lead-like images derived from a laborious process and the use of ash, pigments, parchment, wax and felt express the feeling of starvation – the body transformed into skin and bone – the spirit destroyed.
Lesia Maruschak is a photography-based artist with a unique lens on the creation of mobile memorial spaces. Born in 1961 in Saskatchewan she spent her childhood on the Canadian prairies, land settled by her ancestors in 1874. In the mid-1970s she first picked up a camera, to which she did not return until 2016.
Maruschak’s work – a complex exploration of memory and sensual expression – informs and expands what it means to create memorials in an age where the “what and why of museums” is in question. Her humanist approach and abstract sensual representation of modern-day atrocities set her apart from other photographers, at a time when photojournalism and documentary evidence continue to shape the truth-telling and proof-seeking roles of memorial museums. According to Monica Allende, “Maruschak’s work reflects on the visual memory of history, and the role of the artist in the decolonization of narratives which are critical issues in photography debate.” Using a narrative approach, her work comprises objects and installations encompassing photographs, paper works, textile figurative sculptures, and film. Dr. Sabina Tanovic notes that Maruschak’s approach to memorial spaces, as exemplified by her most recent book TRANSFIGURATION, “…is a brilliant intervention in the vast field of memory studies.”
In just three years of practice Maruschak’s works have been collected by museums, exhibited in many solo and group photographic exhibitions in nine countries. She has published four books; her Limited-Edition Art Book, TRANSFIGURATION, has been acquired by numerous private and public collections including Stanford University, Athenaeum, Columbia University, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, and the Library of Congress. Maruschak collaborates with recognized international memory museums, lectures at international conferences such as FORMAT 19 University of Derby (2019) and Why Remember? Sarajevo (2019). She makes special guest appearances at photo festivals including PhotoVenezia (2018) and Palm Springs Photo Festival (2017). In 2014, The Governor General of Canada presented Maruschak with the Caring Canadian and Silver Medal Award for her work.
Maruschak holds a MA in Ethnography and an MBA in International Management.
She spends her time between Alvena and Ottawa, Canada.
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