the University of Saskatchewan
Sandra Semchuk (collaboration with Jerry DesVoignes), In every tree breath, 2015, film, 11 min 40 s
Sandra Semchuk, I am afraid of + what you fear, 2010-2012
the University of New Mexico
Sandra Semchuk received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon (1971).
Semchuk’s work has been informed by her identity as a Ukrainian Canadian woman who grew up on the Prairies as a child of Ukrainian immigrants. Her 15-year collaboration with her late husband, Rock Cree actor and orator James Nicholas, led to works that consider potential conciliations within the self and between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
Sandra Semchuk’s early photographic works have been said to belong to a “broad general category of the documentary”. Her photographic portrait works from this era, more specifically her 1982 series of eighty-seven photographs entitled Excerpts from a Diary, address themes of death and family whilst presenting a narrative of "self-examination and transformation" through her use of self-portraits and images containing domestic and prairie backgrounds.
Sandra Semchuk was awarded a grant from 2008-2015 from the Canada First World War Internment Fund to complete her book on Ukrainian's in Canada "The Stories Were Not Told: Stories and Photographs from Canada's First Internment Camps, 1914-1920". Her work has been exhibited at galleries across Canada and abroad, including the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography (Ottawa), the Center for Creative Photography (Tuscon, Ariz.), the Chapel Gallery (Battleford, Sask), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Museu D’art Contemporani (Barcelona).
Sandra Semchuk is currently based in Vancouver, B.C., where she teaches at Emily Carr University.
Quotes from others about the person
Penny Cousineau-Levine, the author of Faking Death: Canadian Art Photography and the Canadian Imagination, writes of Excerpts from a Diary that the journey of Semchuk’s protagonist "follows the structure of classic initiatory voyages of descent and return, death and rebirth, the prototype of which is the Greek legend … of Orpheus, who, grief-stricken at the death of his wife, descends to the underworld to convince the god Pluto to allow her to return to earth."
James Nicholas and Sandra Semchuk were married until James died suddenly and unexpectedly in 2007.