Miya Turnbull is a Canadian multi-disciplinary visual artist. Primarily a mask maker, she also works in many mediums such as painting, photography, screen printing, textiles, video, animation and projection. She is of mixed Japanese-Canadian ancestry and she works predominantly with self-portraits as a way to explore and examine identity. She holds a BFA from the University of Lethbridge (Alberta) and currently lives in Halifax (Nova Scotia). Miya has presented her masks, photo and video work across Canada and internationally. In 2019, she exhibited over 60 masks at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre Gallery in Toronto and in 2020, was part of the Photophobia Film Festival, presented by the Hamilton Art Gallery and Hamilton Arts Inc. So far in 2021, her masks were presented at the Royal Anthropological Institute Film Festival in Bristol, UK by Social Anthropologist, Nataliya Tchermalykh (University of Geneva) and she has an up-coming exhibit at Gallery 101 in Ottawa, Ontario. Recently her artwork was featured on the cov-er of Art Reveal, an online magazine based out of Germany. She gratefully acknowledges the support from Arts Nova Scotia which has allowed her artwork to flourish.
Over and over, I create new variations of my ‘self’ through masks and photographs. My self-portraits are rarely representational; in most cases I have altered my image, sometimes with extreme manipulations resulting in distortions. I do this as a way to explore different facets of my identity, specifically being half Japanese and examining my feelings of being ‘in-between’. I am also interested in the space within defined margins; where beauty turns into the grotesque and where the outer persona shifts inward and vice versa. By keeping my image a constant, I am able to experiment with multiple iterations and further explore my heritage, experiences, perceptions and inner world, making these visible, tangible and wearable. I am drawing from the traditional uses of masks worn for disguise, transformation and protection, and as symbols for persona, self-image and identity. Ironically, I am placing my face on the front of the mask at the same time concealing my 'self' behind it. I can then manipulate how you see me. I dissect, distort and re-construct my own image in an attempt to examine myself from an outside perspective, and separate myself from physical appearances, which is how we are often defined and labelled, especially at first glance. I am attempting to continuously hone in on the transitory nature of identity, duality and 'in betweenness' through the use of layers; to reveal and embody something previously hidden with each self-portrait variation. I wear my masks as ‘false faces’ or a 'second skin' and as windows into the unseen/ unknown. As a group of self-portraits, I hope the viewer looks deeper and sees a part of me (and ultimately themselves) in all of them.