Miya Turnbull


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 settler, mixed Japanese-Canadian ancestry(Yonsei) and grew up on a farm 45km NW of Edmonton, Alberta (Treaty 6 territory). Her mother, Marjene Matsunaga Turnbull, is an artist/potter and was a huge influence nurturing her love and interest in art. Miya graduated from the University of Lethbridge with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2000. After living briefly in Montreal, she moved to Halifax (K’jipuktuk) 20 years ago, where she lives with her husband and daughter.

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 after a 10 year hiatus away from her practise. In 2020, was part of the Photophobia Film Festival, presented by the Hamilton Art Gallery and Hamilton Arts Inc. In 2021, she has shown work at Acadia University Art Gallery (NS), Barrett Art Centre (Poughkeepsie, NY), M.A.D.S Art Gallery (Milan, Italy) and has an upcoming exhibit at Gallery 101 in Ottawa. Recently her masks were presented at the Royal Anthropological Institute Film Festival in Bristol, UK by Nataliya Tchermalykh, a social anthropologist from the University of Geneva,  and her artwork was featured on the cover 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.



Artist Statement

Over and over, I create new variations of my ‘self’ through masks, sculptures, photos and video. My self-portraits are often altered in various manners- the slant of my eyes for example, or sometimes extreme manipulations resulting in distorted representations. 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 what and how you see me. I dissect, distort and reconstruct 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'; to reveal and embody something previously hidden with each self-portrait variation. I wear my masks as a ‘false face’ or a 'second skin' and as a window into the unseen/unknown. As a group of self-portraits, I hope the viewer looks deeper and sees a part of me in all of them, or perhaps in the space between all of them.

Miya Turnbull, 2021

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