LESIA MARUSCHAK, 3RD BIENNIAL’S GRANT
Maria memorializes the victims of the Ukrainian famine of 1932-33 - Holodomor - an
event widely thought to be genocidal. At its center is a single vernacular image of a
young girl who survived and resides in Canada. As many as four million did not.
The work, in book and exhibition forms, presents my intellectual and emotional
response, informed by current research and the stories shared by survivors in the
Ukrainian Canadian community I grew up in.
The project utilizes three kinds of images. 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. An abstract representation of the ancient Salamis counting tool,
explores my inability to grasp the conscious eradication of human life on such massive
Maria is more than a prosthetic memory of a modern-day atrocity or a memorial space
- it is a cautionary tale to be heeded.
In her essay “From Ashes” Alison Nordström notes: “The pictures she makes, finds,
organizes, and embellishes, are thus powered both by a need to know and by the
impossibility of knowing, and both elements become what the pictures are about.
Maruschak transcends the absence of statistical fact by asserting the higher truths of
selfhood, identity and artistic expression with images that are intentionally ambiguous,
mysterious and abstruse. Both the documentary base and the artist’s transfiguration of
it are true, and both are fictions.”
GRANT: The Maria project is currently slated for exhibition in Canada, the United
States and Ukraine (2018-2020). Biennial Grant funding would be used to strengthen
the exhibition programming, and support the addition of a senior curator to the project
team and development of associated materials for the exhibitions, online website and
related books and catalogues. This grant would advance the experiential and
pedagogical capital of the project and the experience of visitors in a significant way.
LESIA MARUSCHAK is a collector, curator and artist based in Ottawa, Canada
specializing in photography-based art investigating identity, remembrance and
connection. Formerly the Artistic Director for Giorgos Kordis, she curated eight
international contemporary exhibitions in 2016. In the following two years of
independent practice her works have become part of over 50 solo and group
photographic exhibitions in nine countries, including 2018 Getxophoto Post Conflict
Reframing a Dialogue (Spain), 2018 5th Biennial of Fine Art & Documentary
Photography (Spain), Fotofilmic 2019 (Los Angeles, Seoul, Vancouver), 2019 ERMILOV
Centre (Ukraine), 2020 Turchin Visual Arts Centre (USA). Notable collections holding
her works are the Phoenix Art Museum, 24 Sussex (Prime Minister of Canada’s
Residence), and Library and Archives Canada. Awards and accolades include being
shortlisted for the prestigious 2017 Hariban Award and receiving the Governor General
of Canada’s Sovereign Medal. Her works have been published and written about in
numerous publications including an upcoming essay by Alison Nordström (former
Director and Senior Curator of the Southeast Museum of Photography and Senior
Curator of Photographs at George Eastman House) on Maruschak’s keystone series
TRANSFIGURATION: into the light. Currently, Maruschak is constructing multi-media
mobile memorials including archival photographs and textiles to tell the story of a little
girl named Maria – a survivor of the 1932-33 artificial famine in Ukraine.
She holds a MA in Ethnography and an MBA in Competitive Intelligence.