Erika DeFreitas is already grieving the loss of her mother.
Her pre-mourning exhibit, which opens Feb. 13 at Coquitlam’s Art Gallery at Evergreen (AGE), pays tribute to her relationship with her mom and their Guyanese lineage, and expands on connections to other female trailblazers throughout time.
Part of the larger 2021 Capture Photography Festival Selected Exhibition Program, the images curated for Erika DeFreitas: close magic are an attempt to re-frame history through a women’s lens using her mother as a reference point, she said.
DeFreitas also brings in others who have impacted her work such as artists Grace Jones, Billy Holliday, Georgia O’Keefe, Eva Hesse, Rebecca Belmore and Agnes Martin as well as women who’ve been on the margins of art history, or history in general.
“I’m honouring my mom but I’m also really thinking about all the women who have sacrificed so much over the years,” DeFreitas said from the Scarborough, Ont., home she shares with her mother. “They have all paved the way, often in quiet ways.”
DeFreitas, who holds a master’s degree in visual studies from the University of Toronto, bases her images on her immigrant mother who settled in Canada at 18.
DeFreitas includes religious and cultural symbols such as the Catholic rosary in her photos, videos and paper collages, and often employs the hands and body to show love, care, labour, strength, vulnerability, trauma and joy, among other things.
Mourning her mom in advance — through scenes of togetherness and separation, longing and letting go — is something she feels strongly about but her work “isn’t so much about death but loss, that awareness of absence. Death is just one element.”
As for her mother, who has been DeFreitas’ artistic subject for the past decade, “she feels proud that her story can help illuminate the stories of other people.”
• Erika DeFreitas: close magic, her first solo show in British Columbia, runs from Feb. 13 to April 25 at the Art Gallery at Evergreen (1205 Pinetree Way, Coquitlam). Meanwhile, Kate Henderson is the new interim visual arts manager at AGE this year.