MARIA: Lesia Maruschak

Friday, March 6, 2020
Friday, March 6, 2020 (6:00pm - 10:00pm)
Saturday, August 1, 2020
Mayer Gallery

There are few places around the globe that have escaped the scars of genocide, of repression, of fear. Lesia Maruschak’s installations reclaim individual memory and, in claiming for herself a personal, familial history, transcends the self to articulate our collective history; her tears become our tears causing the oceans to rise at first imperceptibly and then in a torrent of “inconvenient truths.”

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Lesia Maruschak; Molytva.

Artist’s statement

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. More than four million others 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 in which I grew up.

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. An abstract representation of the ancient Salamis counting tool, explores my inability to grasp the conscious eradication of human life on such massive scales.

MARIA is more than a prosthetic memory of a modern-day atrocity or a memorial space, it is a learning environment and a space for contemplation. 

— Lesia Maruschak

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Lesia Maruschak; My Doll.

About the artist

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 when a diagnosis of leukemia led her to change her life’s direction and commit to making art.

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.”

Maruschak’s projects are produced across platforms such as installations, paper works, books, and films and in three years have been shown in the United States, Canada, the UK, Spain, Holland, France, Mexico, Greece, Korea, Italy and Spain. Her works are held in private and special collections as well as museums such as the Phoenix Museum of Art, Stanford University, Athenaeum, Columbia University, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, and the Library of Congress. In 2019 Maruschak received the Director’s Choice Award at Santa Fe Center, Grand Prix Award at Kyiv Arsenal Book Festival, Shortlisted Athens Photo Festival and featured at Rencontres Arles.

Maruschak holds a MA in Ethnography and an MBA in International Management.

Maruschak spends her time between Alvena and Ottawa, Canada.

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Lesia Maruschak; House.

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Portrait of the artist by Sergji Talochko.

Related events

Mar 4 6:00pm - 7:30pm ARTtalk: MARIA: Lesia Maruschak
Mar 6 6:00pm - 10:00pm Spring Exhibition Celebration
Jul 10 6:00pm - 10:00pm Summer Exhibition Celebration

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