“It’s massive for the community, for the African Nova Scotian community. I hope it encourages other artists to go up for the award—because I didn't even think I would be nominated at all,” says Letitia Fraser of today’s news that she landed on the 2022 Sobey Art Award long list. “It just didn't seem like I would even get it, you know,” the interdisciplinary, African Nova Scotian artist adds. “So, to be in this position, it feels really amazing.”
Fraser is one of 25 Canadian artists to make the long list for the country’s biggest prize in visual arts—and is one of two Halifax-based artists in the running, alongside Michelle Sylliboy.
Known for her hyperrealist, richly-textured portraits of members of the African Nova Scotian community, Fraser has kept her star escalating ever skyward since she burst on the scene in 2019, when her solo show at NSCAD’s Anna Leonowens Gallery gained significant buzz (and the cover of The Coast’s 2019 New Art issue). Since then, it’s been ever new heights for Fraser—including 2021’s joint Art Gallery of Nova Scotia show Family Patterns, where she shared wall space with her former NSCAD classmate Darcie Bernhardt.
Fraser says that her work aims “to spread awareness about my community, and about the African Nova Scotian experience. We're not represented often—and if we are, it's not in a good light. Anything in the news that you hear it's never [positive]. There's a lot of good that happens in the communities, a lot of amazing stuff that's going on,” she says. “African Nova Scotians have been here for over 400 years. Just to kind of give people a peek into our lives—and that we’re human beings as well.”
Now, the whole country is about to know the Nova Scotian artist who her hometown has been championing all along.
The Sobey Award shortlist (and winner) will be released later this spring.