October 26, 2017 2:48 pm

Halifax-based Indigenous artist Ursula Johnson wins $50K Sobey Art Award

Ursula Johnson has won the 2017 Sobey Art Award, a prize worth $50,000

Rita Taylor courtesy of Banff Centre for the arts

Ursula Johnson, a Mik’maw artist based in Dartmouth, has won the 2017 Sobey Art Award which brings with it a $50,000 prize.

The 37-year-old artist, originally from Sydney, N.S., was announced as the winner of the contemporary art prize on Wednesday in Toronto.

“I’m just so grateful and I’m just vibrating with excitement,” Johnson said in an interview with Global News on Thursday.

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“I’ll be able to use (the prize) to reinvest into my artwork so I can work on a larger level and work with materials I wouldn’t have had access to before this.

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Johnson describes herself as an interdisciplinary artist, working in a multitude of elements including performance art, sculpture, music and printmaking.

Since she graduated from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 2006, she’s participated in over 30 group shows and five solo exhibits.

A lot of her artwork plays on the notion of identity and ancestry, something that she has used to reflect on her Mik’maw heritage.

“In the past couple of years I’ve been really interested in this concept of identity as citizenship, but also identity as humans in this kind of bustling world that we live in,” Johnson said.

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The prize’s selection committee commended her for her unique artistic voice.

“Ursula Johnson was singled out ‎for her strong voice, her generosity and collaborative spirit. Through her work, she redefines traditional materials and re-imagines colonized histories,” the committee wrote in its decision.

Johnson was among five finalists representing different regions across Canada.

The contemporary art honour is presented annually to a Canadian artist aged 40 or under who has exhibited in a public or commercial art gallery within 18 months of being nominated.

The other four finalists receive $10,000 apiece, while the longlisted artists are awarded $1,000 each.

— With files from the Canadian Press 

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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