Sandra Semchuk

About the Artist

Sandra Semchuk was born to Ukrainian immigrant parents in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan. Her origins continue to inform her  artistic practice"Practice" is something a person does repeatedly, whether to improve or to do what one does customarily, habitually, or professionally. Writers occasionally refer to what artists do as their practice: "Duchamp's practice" or "Picasso's studio practice." Some prescriptivists have criticized this usage as pretentious. The stronger tradition is to speak of the practices of physicians, lawyers, and dentists. Those professionals must have licenses in order to practice. They are white collar, and less messy. Speaking of an artist's "practice" is somewhat comparable to speaking of an artist's "production" — art making. (  even today as she deals with family, history, and loss in her prolific use of photography and other art-making techniques.

Semchuk obtained her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Saskatchewan, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and followed it with a Master of Arts degree from the University of New Mexico. As a young artist and educator, Sandra was instrumental in the establishment of Saskatchewan’s photographic arts scene. In 1973 she co-founded The Photographer’s Gallery in Saskatoon (which after three decades of serving the Saskatoon photographic and art communities merged with Video Vérité to become PAVED Arts). She continued to teach photography workshops at The Photographer’s Gallery after its inception.

Semchuk is interested in the use of story and autobiography in her art making.  Her work often relates to her position as a Ukrainian-Canadian woman, and she uses her practice to confront the complexity of that identity by interrogating the half-truths we tell about ourselves as a country. One such example is a current project in which Semchuk is photographing the internment camps created by the Canadian Government during World War I, and interviewing the relatives of prisoners who were held there.

Semchuk said of her 1990 work Death’s Door: A Father and Daughter Collaboration, “In the photographic images, I trace my own responses to my father and to his inevitable death. This investigation occurs within the simple experiences of moving from the tent where I slept separate from my father’s home, and of situating myself in his bedroom. I use the  cameraIn photography, a tool for producing photographs, having a lightproof enclosure with an aperture and a shuttered lens through which the image of an object is focused and recorded on a photosensitive film or plate. In video, a device that receives the primary image on a light-sensitive cathode tube and transforms it into electrical impulses. ( Find out about 35-mm cameras at Wikipedia:  gesturally as a way of sustaining the experience from the inside, and of leaving a trace as an outside observer... Much of the text is excerpted from a dialogue with my father, who also helped me edit the images.”  (Borsa and Semchuk, 1992.)

Sandra Semchuk has exhibited with the notable galleries Presentation House (Vancouver, British Columbia), The Center for Creative Photography (Tucson, Arizona), The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Fotofeis:  Scottish International Festival of Photography. Sandra currently teaches photography at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning