Movement Three: The Miraculous

Erika DeFreitas

May 1ā€“August 27, 2023
Curated by Farah Yusuf

The final instalment of This Unfathomable Weight, a three-part exhibition on UTM campus lightboxes and public billboards

Erika DeFreitas, to be sought, rounded, and full of grace (no.6), 2023. Courtesy the artist.

Whether secular or spiritual, personal or communal, simple or elaborate, rituals are powerful stabilizing structures for contending with uncertainty. Acts of intentional repetition can have a deep psychological calming effect, and ceremonial gestures can impart significance to moments of transition. These symbolic practices do not magically reorder the world, rather they provide an internal sense of comfort and order as a way to cope with what has become disorderly.

Much of Erika DeFreitasā€™ practice addresses themes of loss, grief, and communion with feminine energies beyond the realm of the ordinary. The five tableaus titled to be sought, rounded, and full of grace (2023) draw a connective thread through the many ways the artist has engaged with representations of the Virgin Mary in past artwork, research, and personal collections. Here, DeFreitas offers a glimpse into her preoccupation with this figure who is the symbol par excellence of grace embodied as the eternal mother. A figure that occurs with other names and likenesses across many cultures and spiritual practices.

Several of the tableaus feature Polaroids from an earlier series titled we are reservoirs, where over the course of several months DeFreitas engaged in a daily ritual of photographing the sun in an attempt to capture an apparition of the Virgin Mary. Others display research material informing the series including historical accounts of Virgin Mary apparitions and reference material about the origin of the Black Virgin. Some historians attribute the darker skin of these globally prevalent statues to the patina of time, while others suggest inculturation or a Christian appropriation of pagan traditions. DeFreitasā€™ interest in the Black Virgin honours her grandmother, one of the women who cared for the Black Madonna of La Divina Pastora Church in Siparia, Trinidad. All of the images depict the artistā€™s hands engaging with the objects in quotidian gestures of touching, cradling, and pointing, which also embody a grace evocative of religious statuaryā€“as if by mimicking these graceful gestures DeFreitas is practicing an embodied empathy. By tapping into intuition, ritual, and gesture, DeFreitas demonstrates how objects and bodies carry deep histories, and how close attunement can evoke energies beyond the material and rational to perhaps commune with a state of grace.

Movement Three: The Miraculous is part of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, May 1ā€“31, 2023.

Public Billboard

Each part of This Unfathomable Weight features a fifth image on a public billboard in Mississauga. For part three, the public billboard appears on Derry Road East, west of Professional Court, on the north side facing west, May 1ā€“28, 2023.

Visit the Blackwood website for contributor bios, documentation, and public programs.

About This Unfathomable Weight
Three-part exhibition on UTM campus lightboxes and public billboards

September 6, 2022ā€“August 27, 2023

Erika DeFreitas, to be sought, rounded, and full of grace (no.2), 2023. Courtesy the artist.

Artists: Christina Battle, Erika DeFreitas, Jessica Thalmann

Curator: Farah Yusuf

Program Respondent: Maandeeq Mohamed

This Unfathomable Weight is a three-part lightbox and billboard project that grapples publicly with how we make sense of living through the massive crises of recent years, asking: How can we heal from widespread experiences of shock, anxiety, loss, and social upheaval?

Through an understanding of trauma as a psychic rupture, where meaning-making has been suspended, deferred, or displaced, the project carves out space for reparative gestures of making sense across personal, societal, and spiritual registers. In part one (Fall 2022), Jessica Thalmann reflects on a personal crisis of meaning through a series of images that document her time in the ICU as primary caregiver to her mother who suddenly became critically ill. In part two (Winter 2023), Christina Battle uses text-based imagery to attend to collective resilience against an overwhelming media ecology. In part three (Summer 2023), Erika DeFreitas looks to the miraculous as a way of contending with uncertainty through a daily ritual of attempting to capture the Virgin Mary (or what she refers to as the ā€œdivine feminineā€) in photographs of the sun.

By meditating on Thalmann, Battle, and DeFreitasā€™ images of fragility, grief, quiet rage, and serene contemplation, this project provides a way to try to fathom the magnitude of this moment. As such, This Unfathomable Weight embraces the need to understand and give form to what overwhelms. Intended as a series of public gestures, this exhibition invites a wider audience to collectively process together.

For the full curatorial statement, please visit the Blackwood website.

Program Respondent

Across This Unfathomable Weight, writer and programmer Maandeeq Mohamed has developed a responsive series of programs. For Movement Three: The Miraculous, Mohamed has invited curator Sarah Edo to host a reading group that engages notions of the sacred in Black diaspora, ritual, cosmology, and repair. Thinking alongside Erika DeFreitasā€™ interests in repetition, gesture, and the haptic, the reading group will take place June 14, 3ā€“5pm at the University of Toronto Mississauga. Registration details to follow.


The Blackwood gratefully acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the University of Toronto Mississauga, and the City of Mississauga. Proudly sponsored by the University of Toronto Affinity Partners: Manulife and TD Insurance. Discover the benefits of affinity products!

The Blackwood
University of Toronto Mississauga
3359 Mississauga Rd.
Mississauga, ON L5L 1C6
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Please note: This Unfathomable Weight is FREE and open to the public, and accessible 24 hours a day. Some movement throughout the campus is requiredā€”ramps and curb cuts are in place.

Image descriptions: (1) Two hands hold a small statue of the Virgin Mary and Polaroids picturing the sunny skies are scattered across a white table. (2) Two hands, applied with gold leaf, display a Polaroid of a cloudy blue sky. Four other Polaroids picturing the sun are scattered against a white background.