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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."

New Collaboration Project:

Yume. Digital Dreams

Feb-May, 2022

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I have been working with Shion Skye Carter, who is a dance artist based in Vancouver. We have been working from Coast to Coast across Canada on our project for the past several months. I can't wait to show you our project soon!

14 artists were selected from the Japanese Canadian Artist's Directory, ranging in ages, mediums and locations.

"We are so excited to have you join us online LIVE for our Digital Art Vernissage featuring the collaborative work of 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! 

These incredible multi-disciplined and multi-generational Japanese Canadian artists have been collaborating in pairs, at work and at play for the last 4 months creating surprising, brilliant and moving new digital pieces.


Join us for an online Vernissage showing the results of our collaborations, Monday May 16th, 2022, starting at 9 pm ADT (UTC -03) with a short Q&A with the artists afterwards using either link below: 

YouTube Live

Facebook Live 


Bi-weekly updates and info about all the projects can be found on social media and the website: Yume. Digital Dreams


Read about the project in the Feb 2022 issue of The Bulletin/Geppo, a Vancouver based magazine, with an interview with Tashme Productions (Matt Miwa and Julie Tamiko Manning) who made all this happen. 

A second interview can also be found through Discover Nikkei (April 2022)

A huge thanks to everyone working on this project, I am so proud to be included with all these amazing artists. And a big thank you to the Canada Council for the Arts for supporting this project!

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.

This was one of 2 videos of mine that were featured recently at the Mixed Asian Media Festival, September 15th-19th, 2021

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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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Recent solo exhibit at Still Life with Fruit Gallery in DeLand, Florida. Feb 18th-21st, 2022
See more photos 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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Skin Suit
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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


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Ki (#55)
Ki (#55)

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Ki (Germinate)
Ki (Germinate)

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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.