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.