Toronto-based Suzy Lake has won the sixth annual Scotiabank Photography Award, its $50,000 purse one of the richest in Canada for a professional photographer. Lake, 68, prevailed over two other finalists, Montreal's Pascal Grandmaison and Vancouver's Jayce Salloum, to take the juried prize Tuesday evening at a ceremony in Toronto's Ryerson Image Centre. Each runner-up was awarded $10,000.
Besides the cash, Lake will be honoured with a solo exhibition next year at RIC as part of the 21st annual Contact Photography Festival in Toronto plus the publication of a book of her work, produced by the renowned German art press Steidl. The SPA, first handed out in 2011, supports a Canadian lens-based artist in mid to late career with the aim of helping take that career to a higher level of national and international recognition.
"Suzy Lake's pioneering, long-term photographic exploration in the arena of performative, feminist and self-identification themes places her firmly in the vanguard of Canadian greats," said SPA jury chair and photographer Edward Burtynsky in a statement Tuesday. "Her influence has spread throughout several generations of artists, both nationally and internationally."
Joining Burtynsky on the adjudication panel were Robert Bean, Halifax artist, writer and professor at the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design University; Catherine Bédard, art historian and deputy director of the Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris; and Robert Enright, University of Guelph art professor and senior contributing editor to Border Crossings magazine.
Lake, who earlier this year received a Governor-General's Award for excellence in visual and media arts, began her art practice in 1968 after moving to Montreal from her birthplace in Detroit. She was among the first female artists in Canada to use video, photography and performance art to explore identity, gender and body politics. She moved in 1978 to Toronto where she co-founded the Toronto Photographers Workshop. Retiring in 2008 as head of the photography department at the University of Guelph after a 30-year teaching career there, she went on to have an acclaimed retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 2014-15.
Previous SPA winners include Stan Douglas, Lynn Cohen, Mark Ruwedel, Arnaud Maggs and Angela Grauerholz. The 2015 SPA laureate, Grauerholz is currently having a retrospective at the RIC through Aug. 21.
Lake herself has a new exhibition, Performing an Archive, selections from which are at Contact (Georgia Scherman Projects, through June 4) and McMaster Museum of Art (May 5 to Aug. 20).