Traditioning by Ocean Mussack

Traditioning by Ocean Mussack


Traditioning was conceived by Ocean Mussack, and curated by Catherine Hallam.

When pondering what theme to set for this exhibition, Ocean chose the single word Traditioning, a word that she personally felt would evoke the act of remembering and honouring her Ukrainian ancestry. For many Ukrainian-Canadians the last 4 months of turmoil and war in the Ukraine have stirred up deep memories, traditions, and feelings of connection with their ancestry. The Ukraine is a country rich in cultural heritage and has faced persecution as an ethnic group as early as 1627. The common immigrant experience in Canada has had far reaching impacts on the generations that have followed. Ocean transforms mundane objects, unspoken words and remembrances of her Ukrainian grandparents into a stunning collection of hand carved sculptural pieces that is both evocative and transformational.

Ocean has been a multimedia artist for over 30 years, showing her work in Vancouver, Toronto and Canmore. Her work has always been heavily influenced by her environment. In the city, it consisted primarily of assemblage art from found objects. When she moved to Gabriola, her found objects became driftwood pieces and she took to carving exclusively. As she carves, she works intuitively with each piece, releasing the form that she senses dwelling in the wood. Her intention in sharing her carvings is to offer guests the opportunity to connect more deeply to trees. Her inner work is to continuously develop her attentiveness to the spirit of the wood.

Traditioning - Artist Statement -

Much of our experience is influenced by our inheritance but how do we understand our ancestry? My family history is veiled in silence and mystery. I was raised in a Ukranian-Canadian farming community in Alberta. I knew my mother’s family name had been changed from Farus to Farris, to disguise our Ukranian-ness, but it wasn’t until I recently learned about the history of the internment of Ukranian-Canadians that I realized just how badly they needed the disguise. We were a family that didn’t talk about the important things – was that a survival tactic? What stories went untold?

This collection is the product of my early attempts to honour and engage with my ancestral inheritance. This piecing together of traces of family history is what I’m calling an act of traditioning.

 Working all day to earn a living and feed the family, in spare moments fastening new tools or repairing old ones, a Farus could almost always be found working. Living in a nation-state that was more hostile than supportive, total self-reliance was the only option. Was their tremendous physical strength born of this need – an adaptation? The creativity shown in their craftsmanship – and the resilience in their resourcefulness – I witnessed these alongside much unspoken suffering.

Recalling my grandparents’ endless routine chores, I was inspired to recreate Baba’s Washboard and Gido’s Grain Shovel. And amidst all the work and hardship, there were moments of rest and even celebration: Diborja! (Ukranian for cheers), is a recreation of the whisky glasses they drank from.

I feel propelled to engage with this legacy as if unseen ancestors are urging me on. The Shadow Boards are a cast of figures who’ve been surrounding me, persistent in their presence, yet vague in their truth. I can only continue to engage and discover.

-Ocean Mussack