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Self-Portrait Masks made by Miya Turnbull

Miya (pronounced Mee-yah) Turnbull is an artist based in Halifax (K'jipuktuk), Nova Scotia, Canada. This website explores her current body of work with Self-Portrait Masks, Photography, Video and Projection Work. Her online shop where she sells textiles and paintings, can be found at www.thatcat.ca

About her masks: 

"My masks are three-dimensional self-portraits- a combination of photography, sculpture and collage. They are photo-realistic but often altered- for example, I might change the placement or even erase select facial features, or cut up and re-attach masks together in unusual combinations. I use photo elements within my work to create an uncanny resemblance within my masks, in addition to capturing images of myself wearing these facades.


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. 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."

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Miya standing outside of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia -Western Branch in Yarmouth, NS. Her photograph is on display as part of the NS Art Bank Purchases 2020-2021 Group Exhibition. Photograph taken at the Opening Reception May 26th, 2022. Exhibition dates: May 14th- ongoing.

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Yume. Digital Dreams
Feb-May, 2022

14 artists were selected from the Japanese Canadian Artist's Directory, ranging in ages, mediums and locations: Baco Ohama + Jon Sasaki, Kayla Isomura + Dawn Obokata, Linda Uyehara Hoffman + Kunji Ikeda, Michael Fukushima + Lillian Blakey, Teiya Kasahara + Noriko K. Kobayashi, Shion Skye Carter + Miya Turnbull, Will Shintani + Hitoshi Sugiyama. 


We have been collaborating in pairs this past Spring, creating new digital pieces, presented and organized by Tashme Productions (Matt Miwa and Julie Tamiko Manning) and supported financially by the Canada Council for the Arts.

Our online Vernissage showing the results of our collaborations was showcased May 16th, 2022 with a short Q&A with the artists afterwards and is now archived: YouTube and on the website: Yume. Digital Dreams.

Read about the project in The Bulletin/Geppo (Feb 2022) and Discover Nikkei (April 2022) with interviews by Matt Miwa and Julie Tamiko Manning who made all this happen. 

A huge thanks to everyone working on this project, I was so proud to be included with all these amazing artists. I was so honoured to work alongside Shion. Here is our video: "Omote (面)" 

"Omote (面)" is an art/dance film conjured through the collaborative process between two Japanese Canadian artists:
Vancouver-based dance artist Shion Skye Carter, and Halifax-based mask artist Miya Turnbull.

The kanji symbol 面 can be translated as "Omote"- face, surface and also as "Men"- mask.

Hand-crafted papier-mâché masks, coming in myriad shapes and facial expressions, become extensions of the body in this work. The masks' distorted imagery borders on the grotesque, challenging traditional ideas of beauty, while gesture and tableaus articulate the concept of honne (本音) and tatemae (建前): when a person’s true feelings and desires (honne) contrasts from the behavior and opinions they share in public (tatemae). The masks also serve as tools to reflect on self identity, affected in part by the artists' shared mixed race Nikkei heritage. How do cultural expectations, and one’s ancestral history, influence the parts of ourselves that we express to the world, and the parts that we keep hidden away? 

Created and performed by Miya Turnbull and Shion Skye Carter
Masks by Miya Turnbull
​Music: Stefan Nazarevich (Vancouver, B.C.)


Behind the Mask: Miya Turnbull

Mini-doc showcasing my artwork, 3 min 37 sec.
Presented by Instagram's 
Fashion For Bank Robbers, January 2021.

The first of a series of videos about mask-makers from around the world, entitled:
Behind the Mask, launching on their new YouTube Channel.


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"Behind the Mask: Miya Turnbull" was an Official Documentary Selection, featured at the Mixed Asian Media Festival, September 15th-19th, 2021.

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"In-Between" was screened at Photophobia- Contemporary Moving Images Festival, Aug 2020 co-presented by Hamilton Artists Inc and the Art Gallery of Hamilton. It was also an Official New Media Selection, featured at the Mixed Asian Media Festival, September 15th-19th, 2021.

This video has been shown in several exhibits alongside my masks: at the Craig Gallery in Dartmouth, NS as part of a group exhibit entitled, "I am What I am" curated by Brandt Eisner, September 2020, and in July 2021 at a group exhibit with the same name, at the Ice House Gallery in Tatamagouche, NS. It was also on display at Gallery 101 in Ottawa, Ontario for an exhibit called "Behind Between Beyond", running from July 31-Aug 28th, 2021. 

4 of my masks travelled to France to be used in the short film: Nô Feminist
Directed by: Aï
ssa Maïga

Co-written by Aïssa Maïga and Boulomsouk Svadphaiphane
Produced by: Talents Adami Cinéma 2022 and De l’Autre Côté du Périph’
Premiered at the 75th International Cannes Film Festival, May 24th, 2022 and on France TV (2)

Viewable through Talents Adami Cinéma website (use password adami2022)

It was filmed in the theatre within the Familistère de Guise landmark, in France

Cast includes: Aksel Carrez, Coline Rage, Selena Diouf and Yoshi Oida

Beautiful costumes designed by Liputa Swagga



"Gloria, Lili and Amir only have a few days to master a Noh play. The troupe of actors must juggle between sexist remonstrances, text changes and strange noises that echo on the stage. But revelations about the famous director and author of the play will further upset the rehearsals."


An article and feature on Vogue Thailand's website
Article written by Nattanam Waiyahong, Nov 11th, 2021

Read the article here- translated to English through Google Translate. 

Read the original article written in Thai here.


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Art Reveal Magazine, May 2021
Issue #59

Cover art and Featured Artist:
Miya Turnbull

I am the cover and featured artist in MASKS Literary Magazine, Issue #2 (Fall 2021) which is an independent, non-profit literary magazine, published in partnership with the Columbia College Chicago Library and the Aesthetics of Research Program.

Read the online version of the magazine here

Read my full interview here

Print copies available soon

The Making of Nocturne 2021: LIMINAL

Video made by: Only Issue  a full-service independent film house based on the east coast of Canada, 
with additional footage provided by filmmakers from Atlantic Film Cooperative.

Halifax's Nocturne: Art at Night Festival featured the work of over 100 artists, curated by
Liliona Quarmyne.
I had masks, photos and projections on display at the MacPhee Centre for Learning in Dartmouth, NS, for a Beacon Project and I also had a series of Inside Out masks on display at the Halifax Central Library as a Community Project. 

3 channel video projection onto masks: "Self-Portrait" was on display October 2021 at Halifax's Nocturne: Art at Night Festival, among many other masks and photos. 

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I often get asked how I got into mask making:

"I began making these "Photo-Masks", which is what I call this technique, during my Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, in the late '90's. I was taking several different classes in printmaking, photography, sculpture and painting and I was also taking anthropology, biology and psychology. At one point the drama department was offering a mask making class, which is where I learned how to make a plaster cast of my face and make lightweight papier-mâché masks. In my 3rd or 4th year, I had an independent open studio to work on my own and all these things came together and I made my first Photo-Mask.  

I started focusing in on a series working specifically with Self-Portrait Masks, starting in 2005, thanks to a Creation Grant from Arts Nova Scotia. There was a 10 year gap in my practise while focussing on my family but I have returned full time again for the past couple of years, thanks to an invitation to show my masks at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre Gallery in Toronto, Ontario in 2019, which got me back into the studio. I now have over 100 masks in my collection and continue to develop and expand this work."


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Origami Self Portraits
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     I was one of 3 mask makers interviewed by Nataliya Tchermalykh (@amstramgram), a Social Anthropologist, from the University of Geneva. She recently presented her research about our work to the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI) Conference in Visual Anthropology that is part of the RAI Film Festival, normally held in Bristol (UK) but was online this year due to Covid. The Film Festival ran from March 19-28th, 2021 and included a Panel Discussion on March 25th, 2021. 


     I am so honoured to be included in her research. Other mask makers that were interviewed were Mammu Rauhala (@mammu) from Finland and Liuba Malikova (@dis_order_dress and @luba_of_dis_order) from Ukraine. 


     Her paper is called “A Mask of One’s Own” and in Dr. Tchermalykh’s words, "This paper uses an anthropological lens to make sense of the expanding artistic creativity, related to hygienic masks and other face-covering devices in the times of Covid-19 in relation to other social meanings attributed to these objects.”

To access Miya's online shop where she sells paintings and textile work, including silkscreened designs and work with natural dyes, please visit: www.thatcat.ca

Ki (Germinate)
Ki (Germinate)

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Ki (#55)
Ki (#55)

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Miya would like to acknowledge the support of Arts Nova Scotia and the Canada Council for the Arts, both of which have allowed her artwork to flourish.