; it was in the air, as they say.

Erika DeFreitas, Untitled, 2016

Erika DeFreitas, ; it was in the air, as they say. installation view. Photo by Jocelyn Reynolds.

Erika DeFreitas, ; it was in the air, as they say. installation view. Photo by Jocelyn Reynolds.

Erika DeFreitas, ; it was in the air, as they say. installation view. Photo by Jocelyn Reynolds.

Erika DeFreitas, ; it was in the air, as they say. installation view. Photo by Jocelyn Reynolds.

Erika DeFreitas, ; it was in the air, as they say. installation view. Photo by Jocelyn Reynolds.

; it was in the air, as they say.

Friday, July 8, 2016 to Saturday, August 27, 2016
Opening Reception
July 8,
6:00PM to 8:00PM
About the Exhibition: 

; it was in the air, as they say., is a continued exploration of working through issues of loss and ritual collaboratively with my mother. In this new body of work, we address both loss and ritual through examining our different relationships to Catholicism and the quiet tension that hovers between us.

I have been thinking about religion and the body.

An image that has lived with me for some time now, has been of my mother and I laughing hysterically to the point of tears. I don’t see it often. It’s a fleeting image. When it appears, we aren’t sharing the same space; it exists as a split screen in my mind. There is a softness to it – as if the light is shining through us. I can’t determine why this resonates the way that it does, but to me this imagery invokes the tradition of lamentation in religious texts and the phenomena of the weeping statues of the Virgin Mary. In Her body is full of light (often, very often, and in floods)., we perform this action in a dual channel video.

I have been thinking about ritual, process, and relics.

At times I have seen my mother running rosary beads between her fingers. I know that a rosary can always be found underneath her pillow. For the past 25 years, the once bright baby blue rosary that has now faded to white, hangs from the rear view mirror in her car. I think back to a time when a medium told me that my grandmother is with my mother when she is lying in bed holding -- what the psychic interpreted as -- a string of pearls, but what I immediately identified as her rosary.

In preparation for the photograph of my mother in at the very point where words fail us; (the old word foi, "faith"), we learned how to make a rosary and collectively strung and knotted 300 rosaries over the period of a month. The labour and process involved in making the rosaries felt reminiscent of the meditative and repetitive practice of saying the rosary. These rosaries were draped over my mother’s neck leaving deep marks in her skin – there was heaviness, a weight literally on her shoulders, and not just the one I have put on her. The volume of rosaries was a way of visually speaking to abundance, but also as a means of obstructing my mother’s ability to speak and be heard – a binding of sorts.

I have been thinking about penance, atonement, and guilt.

I wrapped my hair around stones, secured it with string, and then they were loosely sewn together with needles left attached. These strings were then threaded between my teeth. The use of my hair references the body, the abject and loss. I think of this object as a personal, contemporary variation of the hair shirt -- a shirt made out of coarse animal hair, worn by those making penance or as a means of resisting temptation in the early ages of Christianity. What I atone for remains unsaid, but my skepticism is enough to generate the guilt that dwells.

-Erika DeFreitas

Artist Biography: 

Erika DeFreitas is a Toronto-based emerging conceptual artist.  She explores the influence of language, loss and culture on the formation of identity through performance, public interventions, relational exchanges, photographic documentation and textile-based works. DeFreitas is a graduate of the Masters of Visual Studies Program at the University of Toronto and has exhibited projects in artist-run centres in Canada. Recent and upcoming exhibition sites include The Art Gallery of Mississauga, Centre [3] for Print and Media Arts, Pollock Gallery at the Southern Methodist University in Texas, Gallery TPW, A Space Gallery, Propeller Centre for Visual Arts in Toronto, the Houston Museum of African American Culture, performances with the 7a*11d International Festival of Performance Art, and a residency at Mentoring Artists for Women's Art (MAWA) in Winnipeg.

Writer: 

Ellyn Walker is a writer and curator based in Toronto. Her work explores the decolonizing potential of intersectionality through an art historical and curatorial lens. She is currently a PhD candidate in Cultural Studies at Queen's University.