Lesia Maruschak presents a new body of work, Maria, memorializing 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 Maruschak’s intellectual and emotional response, informed by current research and the stories shared by survivors in the Ukrainian Canadian community she grew up in. Maruschak expresses an interest in the construction of art through dissection, multiplication, reconstruction and the presentation of sub-sculpture works using wax and ash.
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.”
Maruschak’s 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, 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 the artist’s inability to grasp the conscious eradication of human life on such massive scales.
How does the viewer’s experience the memorial space and form prosthetic memories of a modern-day atrocity? This is the question the artist asks.