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Whitehorse artist selected as Yukon Prize finalist

Omar Reyna uses range of media in his photographic creations

Omar Reyna, a Mexican-Canadian artist based in Whitehorse, is one of the six finalists selected for the 2023 Yukon Prize for Visual Arts.

The finalists for the prize were announced on June 14. The others are Whitehorse residents Alainnah Whachell and Selkirk First Nation citizen Kaylyn Baker, Dawson residents Jeffrey Langille and Rebekah Miller and Cole Pauls, a Champagne and Aishihik First Nations citizen and Tahltan member who lives in Vancouver.

Reyna said being one of the finalists for the prize is a huge inspiration to keep motivated and working hard.

“One of the nice outcomes of being recognized as a finalist is that it makes you feel good and at the same time, it makes me realize that my place in the art world has just started,” he told the News. “There are a lot of themes I want to explore; art residencies I want to go to and grants, etc. that I want to apply to. I hope this nomination means a little help in this sense of keeping moving forward with my art practice.”

Reyna produces photography-based projects with a wide range of media. His work seeks the materialization of art at a midpoint between research and the activity of making.

“In every one of my art projects, there is a reflection of what interested me at those points in my life,” he said. “However, in the end, what inspires me besides the theme or the medium I’m working on is to ‘touch’ people who experience my art. I want to make them feel something, to experience an emotion, [it] doesn’t matter which one.”

The News asked Reyna about his future plans and ongoing projects. He said he is currently enrolled in a diploma program in artistic creation at the Center for Research, Innovation and Development of the Arts at the University of Nuevo León, Mexico.

After that, he said he wants to take what he’s learned and attend an art residency that will allow him to boost his career.

“As for ongoing projects my current artistic endeavour ‘An ocean roaming through the forest’ is in its second year of production. Usually, it takes me around two to three years to produce a new body of work,” he said.

Born in Mexico City, Reyna studied visual communication and has studies in photography, sculpture, painting, and the philosophy of image. His work has been exhibited in Hungary, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Argentina, South Korea and Italy.

The Yukon Prize for Visual Arts is a biennial award that recognizes excellence by Yukon visual artists.

According to the June 14 release, the Yukon Prize is intended to be a catalyst for the promotion of Yukon visual arts and to inspire connections between Yukon artists and the visual arts community in the rest of Canada.

The prize provides $20,000 to one Yukon artist to help them focus full-time on creating art. The five other finalists will receive $3,000 each.

More than 60 Yukon artists applied for the Yukon Prize in an open competition that closed on Feb. 28. The finalists were chosen by a jury of three well-known arts professionals from outside the Yukon.

A celebration will take place from Sept. 14 to 17 in Whitehorse, coinciding with the opening of a curated exhibition of the finalists’ work at the Yukon Arts Centre. A gala event to announce the recipient of the Yukon Prize and celebrate Yukon visual arts is planned for Sept. 16.

The first Yukon Prize for Visual Arts was offered in 2021. The recipient was Joseph Tisiga.

Yukon Prize co-founder Julie Jai said she continues to be astounded by the diversity and depth of talent of Yukon artists.

“I hope that everyone will take the time to discover the exceptional work of the six finalists. A big thank you to all of the artists who have applied to the Yukon Prize and to our wonderful jurors,” she said.

Co-founder David Trick said one of the goals is for Yukon artists to gain the national and international recognition they deserve.

“We want to help place Yukon art firmly into the national dialogue about art and increase awareness of the exceptional talent of Yukon artists,” he said.

Juror Sarah Milroy highlighted the diversity of the art.

“The applicants for this prize exemplified the diversity of approaches to making art that are alive and well in the Yukon, from beadwork and weaving to electronic sound works and sculptural installation,” she said. “It was a privilege to be immersed in such a rich feast of creativity.”

Contact Patrick Egwu at

Patrick Egwu

About the Author: Patrick Egwu

I’m one of the newest additions at Yukon News where I have been writing about a range of issues — politics, sports, health, environment and other developments in the territory.
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