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The Performance of Shadows

Works by:

Betye Saar, Tim Whiten, Erika DeFreitas

The Performance of Shadows

Curated by Lillian O’Brien Davis

Opening Night:

Wednesday, September 6

Exhibition Dates:

September 7–November 25, 2023


Art Museum at the University of Toronto
Justina M. Barnicke Gallery
(in Hart House)
7 Hart House Circle

The Performance of Shadows explores intuition as a condition of consciousness. This exhibition considers three artists’ various approaches involving phenomenology, spirituality, and political engagement presenting expansive understandings of existence.

Betye Saar’s assemblage work, which has been increasingly influenced by her rising political consciousness since the 1960s, consists of objects carrying their own history and meaning, selected for their “ancestral, ritual, autobiographical, nostalgic and historical” aura. In Saar’s work, time is cyclical, linking the artist and viewers of her work with generations of people who came before them. Saar uses assemblage and found materials to link history and experiences, emotion, and knowledge, travelling across time and back again. 

Tim Whiten bridges material and spiritual experiences that encourage “sensing” over “reading”. Whiten investigates consciousness and its role in the constitution of meaning. Informed by a deep generosity, his work seeks to connect to others through its experience.

Erika DeFreitas’s practice emphasizes process, the body and paranormal phenomena, using primarily lens-based media to reflect on feelings of love and loss. DeFreitas explores the miraculous as a way of considering that which is beyond our comprehension; through simple gestures, she seeks to make perceptible the intangible and invisible. The divine feminine is a consistent presence in DeFreitas’s work, understood by the artist as a connective energy passing through space and time.

Process is key to the works in the exhibition. All three artists embrace various manifestations of intuitive intelligence, working to connect with what lies beyond our immediate experience of reality. Objects and materiality function as transmitters for memory, experience, and consciousness. Meaning and significance cannot be fully experienced through objectivity alone. The artists in The Performance of Shadows nurture intuitive practices that expand our perception of the world. 

The exhibition is presented in partnership with the School of Art Gallery, University of Manitoba with the generous support of Michael F. B. Nesbitt.

Exhibition Resources

Press Release
Exhibition Brochure
Large-Format Text

Opening Reception: Fall 2023 Exhibitions

Wednesday, September 6, 6pm–8pm
University of Toronto Art Centre

Curatorial Tour with Lillian O’Brien Davis

Saturday, October 7, 2pm–3pm
Justina M. Barnicke Gallery
Register on Eventbrite

Our Supporters

We gratefully acknowledge the operating support from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Toronto Arts Council.



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