This year’s Sobey Art Award has gone to Ursula Johnson, the Halifax-based artist whose sculptures, installations, and performances often deal with the history of colonialism in Canada. As the winner of the award, which recognizes a Canadian artist under the age of 40, Johnson will receive 50,000 Canadian dollars, or about $39,000.
Johnson’s work often deals with the history of the Mi’kmaq people, a group indigenous to regions in Canada. In 2010, for example, she staged Elmiet (He/She Goes Home), a performance in which the artist, who is Mi’kmaq, paid homage to a 1756 proclamation in which the Canadian government offered money to those who scalped Mi’kmaq people. For the work, she symbolically scalped herself in what is often regarded as the last scalping in Nova Scotia.
“This gift of being the winner of the Sobey Art Award means that I will now have the tremendous opportunity to work on a larger scale and expand the reach of my work to a broader community while exploring more diversity in materials and content as well as beginning to create a network of collaborators internationally!” Johnson said in a statement.
Raymond Boisjoly, Jacynthe Carrier, Divya Mehra, and Bridget Moser were also nominated for this year’s award. Each will now receive 10,000 Canadian dollars, or about $7,800. Their work, along with Johnson’s, is currently on view in a show of the award’s finalists at the Art Museum of the University of Toronto.