Fishing, Murray Lake, Sask., 2020
“I offered your family frozen pickerel. You stared at me for a long time and said that you were going to set the nets for your family. Sports fishing made no sense when you were dependent on the fish for survival.”
Sandra Semchuk asks herself the question: What leads toward deeper recognitions across generations, cultures, and species? A photographer and scholar, Semchuk is a second-generation Ukrainian Canadian. In 2018, Sandra received the Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts. Over the decades, she has focused her photographic and video works on relationships between herself, her family, and her community. She collaborated with her late husband, James Nicholas, Rock Cree writer and orator, on photographic, text, and video works to disrupt myths that have shaped settler relations to First Nations. Ithin-eh-wuk—We Place Ourselves at the Centre: James Nicholas and Sandra Semchuk was a collaborative exhibition at the Mackenzie Art Gallery in Saskatoon opened in 2021. Recent photographic and video works engage the wider-than-human, the forest, and the overtone singing of Jerry DesVoignes to provide a larger context for human narratives. Her artist’s book,The Stories Were Not Told: Canada’s First World War Internment Camps (University of Alberta Press, 2018), creates a space for internees and descendants to tell their stories. For more information on Sandra's work, please visit The National Gallery of Canada website or Rungh Magazine.
Memories of the ECH:
“The time I spent in London, Ontario (1981–83, 1984–87), was so important to my development as an artist. The artists' community there and the vital activities at the Embassy Cultural House were extraordinary. There was a freedom in the air: the forms, including performance art, installation art, and interdisciplinary work. The depth, activism, and criticality of works produced and projects engaged set the bar high for the work and collaborations that I have undertaken since. The ideas by artists such as Bernice Vincent, Coco Gordon, Jamelie Hassan, and Ron Benner, and curators Marnie Fleming and Bob McKaskell, to name a few, were a great privilege to engage with. As I look back, I see how amazing the community and the dialogue between us were, and I am grateful to have experienced such generosity in the community. We were profoundly interested in one another's work, learning from each other, taking risks because of the courage shown by others."