MARIA Medium: pigment print on awagami kozo paper, overpainted with egg tempera, pigments, ash, hand-brushed with wax resin. Image Size: 100 X 100 CM and larger MARIA - a complex exploration of memory and its sensual expression - memorializes the more than four million victims of the 1932-33 famine in Soviet Ukraine - an event widely thought to be genocidal; this portable memorial offers diverse entry points for a broad audience and is intended to transform the ways we remember this historic event which has impacted my identity, my community, and the one living Canadian survivor known to me, Maria F., and be transformative to the ways we remember similar atrocities happening now.
For nearly a century, within psychiatric and medical establishments, members of the LGBTQ community were characterized within the psychiatric diagnostic manual, the DSM, as mentally ill, and treated as such by the community at large. I myself, have also been characterized as mentally ill, and have suffered through a number of the same mental institutions which were once used to house members of the LGBTQ community. This project highlights the history of mischaracterizing LGBT members as mentally ill, psychotic, unstable, unhinged, and “crazy” so that society can remember what this community had to struggle through to reach their current status of equality.
Since 2011, Maria Sturm has photographed teenagers from the Lumbee tribe in and around Pembroke, North Carolina, where almost 90 percent of the population identifies as Native American. Sturm’s series You Don’t Look Native to Me considers how young Native people present themselves today in relation to their identity and culture. At first glance, Sturm’s photographs might appear to depict the daily life of a community almost anywhere in America, but elements of hybridity—Halloween fangs on a child in Tuscarora regalia; dreamcatchers and a school portrait on a living room wall—signify the mixing of heritage and contemporary culture.
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.