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A photographer whose work documents and celebrates the homoerotic is among the winners of this year’s Governor General Awards in Visual and Media Arts.

Evergon, 77, said he was hopeful he’d receive one of the Artistic Achievement Awards eventually, but he’s “gobsmacked” that it’s actually happened.

Over the course of his career, which is now in its fifth decade, the artist born Albert Jay Lunt said he’s seen attitudes towards his work shift alongside the perception of the LGBTQ community.

“There’s pieces that were scandal 40 and 50 years ago, and there seems to be no scandal with those pieces at the moment,” he said in a phone interview ahead of Tuesday’s announcement.

“Matter of fact, there has been no scandal.”

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A retrospective of the Montreal artist’s work is on display at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec in Quebec City. The museum describes his art as audacious and carnal, exploring issues of sexuality and the body as they intersect with identity.

His portfolio features photos of men that can veer towards the pornographic, including nude self-portraits.

He also created a series of nude photographs of his octogenarian mother, which the Musée national des beaux-arts says “renews the representation of the aging body as few artists have done.”

“She was the one challenging me: ‘I want the photos made of me now. I’m 80, I want them now,’” he recalled. “It was so fun to have them commissioned by her, as opposed to me whining: ‘Can we do this?’”

His mother died several years ago, he said, and he regrets that she’s not here to witness this recognition of his work.

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This year’s list of eight winners also includes David Garneau, who won the Outstanding Contribution Award.

His paintings and drawings speak to the experience of Indigenous men in North America and explores his own Metis identity and family history.

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Meanwhile, Grace Nickel has won the Saidye Bronfman Award, which recognizes the best in fine crafts.

Nickel is a sculptor who renders natural forms in ceramics and porcelain as a way of exploring whether we can return to a natural life.

Also among the six winners of the Artistic Achievement Award is Fastwurms, a poly-disciplinary collective composed of Kim Kozzi and Dai Skuse. The duo, who are based out of Mulmur, Ont., invoke images of witches in their performance art and immersive installations.

Germaine Koh, who was Vancouver’s first engineering artist in residence and who describes herself as an artist-organizer, was also recognized with an award.

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Tim Whiten, whose work explores the experience of BIPOC people, was honoured with an award for a career that spans back to the 1960s.

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Filmmakers Shannon Walsh and Nettie Wild also received awards.

Walsh’s portfolio includes five feature-length documentary films on topics that include labour rights and climate change.

Wild’s documentaries, meanwhile, take viewers behind the scenes of revolutions and social change.

Each winner will receive a $25,000 prize.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 28, 2023.

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