Mystic Toolkit

Group Exhibition

Exhibition: Jan 6 – May 1, 2022

In January 2020, mere weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic took over the entire world, I presented the first iteration of Mystic Toolkit at Stewart Hall Art Gallery in Pointe-Claire (Quebec). This was an exhibition informed by the spiritual renaissance of the late 2010s and meant to shed light on the potential that lies therein to influence the practice of working artists.  

Two years later, in a radically altered global context that has left no one untested or unshaken, Mystic Toolkit picks up the conversation again. In this new context, it is perhaps not surprising that alternative spiritual practices have achieved an accrued prominence. Bringing together the work of seven artists working across a variety of mediums ranging from sculpture, painting, photography, and performance, Mystic Toolkit is a quiet invitation to celebrate daily rituals of coping, healing, and grieving that have become indispensable in recent times. Despite their own idiosyncratic visual vocabulary and practice, the artists included in this exhibition all share the recognition for the mystical forces that affect our daily lives and pay tribute to the daily rituals and repeated gestures that keep us wholesome.  

The exhibition conceptualizes the home as a sanctuary, a place of recollection and refuge. Our home is at once a haven of comfort and self-care, but during lockdown it has also held us captive. As our lives are increasingly scattered into both physical and virtual spaces, some of the artists in the exhibition have reached out to find a spiritual space online. Social media has allowed a sort of “being together” despite strict social distancing mandates. Other artists refer to tarot games as a means of making sense of the world, while others turn to charms and trinkets as tokens of hope. Some have imbued their work with a punctual and regular practice as a way of making order at a time of chaos. Despite the variety of approaches, all of the artists participating in Mystic Toolkit attempt to navigate through what is unquestionably one of the most disruptive crises in modern history via a genuine recognition of the mysterious forces that orchestrate the world. 

–Anaïs Castro, Guest Curator


Alicia Adamerovich

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Alicia Adamerovich is a Brooklyn-based artist interested in the psychological effects that built or imagined environments have on the human psyche. She draws from visions, memory, and dreams to compose surrealist scenes that act as vehicles for desire, fantasy, anxiety, or fears.

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Vanessa Brown

Berlin, Germany

Vanessa Brown is a Canadian artist living and working in Berlin (Germany). Working across a variety of materials, from steel to glass or even textile, her multidimensional sculptural works seem suspended between consciousness and a chimera. Resolutely feminine, her work further recontextualized the domestic space as an empowering refuge and a fertile space for creativity and inspiration.   

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Jennifer Ling Datchuk

San Antonio, Texas, USA

Jennifer Ling Datchuk is a ceramic sculptor and artist born in Warren, Ohio and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Her mother came to this country in the early 1970s from China; her father born and raised in Ohio to Russian and Irish immigrant parents. Beyond initial appearances, the layers of her parents’ past and present histories are extremely overwhelming and complicated – a history of conflict she has inherited and a perpetual source for her work. She captures this conflict by exploring the emotive power of domestic objects and rituals that fix, organize, soothe and beautify our lives. Trained in ceramics, the artist works with porcelain and other materials often associated with traditional women’s work, such as textiles and hair, to discuss fragility, beauty, femininity, intersectionality, identity and personal history.
She holds an MFA in Artisanry from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and a BFA in Crafts from Kent State University. She has received grants from the Artist Foundation of San Antonio, travel grant from Artpace, and the Linda Lighton International Artist Exchange Program to research porcelain clay as a conceptual material. She was awarded a residency through the Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum to conduct her studio practice at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin, Germany and has participated in residencies at the Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen, China, Vermont Studio Center, and the European Ceramic Work Center in the Netherlands. In 2017, she received the Emerging Voices award from the American Craft Council. Currently residing in San Antonio, Texas, where she is a Professor of Art at the Southwest School of Art. On Inauguration Day 2017, she opened the Porcelain Power Factory, a 4-year body of work that reclaims the past lives of objects to raise the social awareness of causes that we need to fight for.
Photo credit: Mark Menjivar

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Erika DeFreitas

Toronto, Canada

Erika DeFeitas is a Toronto-based artist working across different mediums, from photography to performance, video, and sculpture. Arising from a deeply personal perspective, the artist is interested in researching questions pertaining to identity, generational grief, memory, and communal experiences of healing.  

Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally including: Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery; Platform Centre for Photographic and Digital Arts, Winnipeg; Gallery TPW, Toronto; Project Row Houses and the Museum of African American Culture, Houston; Fort Worth Contemporary Arts; and Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita. She is a recipient of the 2016 Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts Finalist Artist Prize, the 2016 John Hartman Award, and was longlisted for the 2017 Sobey Art Award. DeFreitas holds a Master of Visual Studies from the University of Toronto. 

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Julian Yi-Zhong Hou

Vernon, Canada

Julian Yi-Zhong Hou is a multidisciplinary Canadian artist. His work centers around contemporary mystical subjects, consciousness, and experimental pagan and divination ritual, practice, and research. His work has been the focus of solo and group exhibitions at Zalucky Contemporary, Toronto;, Montreal; 8-eleven,Toronto; Artspeak, Vancouver; and the Vancouver Art Gallery. His most recent work, Grass Drama, has been shown in parts at Malaspina Printmakers Society, Vancouver (2021), Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver (2020), Cassandra Cassandra, Toronto (2019); Unit 17, Vancouver (2018); and in Charcuterie 4 (2018). He recently completed Crossroads (2021), a large-scale stained glass public artwork in Burnaby, B.C.. Hou holds a Bachelor of Arts in Art and Culture Studies from Simon Fraser University and a Masters in Architecture from the University of British Columbia. He has participated in residencies at Triangle, Marseilles; Western Front and 221A Vancouver. He is one of the founding members of the art record label and project Second Spring. 

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Rachael Starbuck

Austin, Texas, USA

Rachael Starbuck is an artist, educator and organizer who lives and works in Austin, TX. In her practice Starbuck navigates how a body moves through space, is defined or indistinct, present or absent, solid or yielding. Her work negotiates, touch, desire, intimacy and communication across distance. Working between sculpture and video she makes fluid feeling objects that are sensitive to their environment. 

Starbuck is a co-founder of the nomadic curatorial project Partial Shade and a founding member of MATERIAL GIRLS, a non-local artist collective of female-identifying sculptors and digital artists. She received her MFA in Studio Art from the University of Texas at Austin in 2017 and her BFA in Sculpture + Extended Media from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2011. Starbuck has been a resident at ACRE Projects, The Contemporary Artists Center at Woodside, The Wassaic Project and The Vermont Studio Center and has shown work in Richmond, VA; Providence, RI; Chicago, IL; Austin, TX; Houston, TX; New York, NY; Los Angeles, CA; and London, UK.

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Shanie Tomassini

Montréal, Canada

Shanie Tomassini’s work explores the cyclical and renewable potential of objects, sites and ideas. Evoking sustainability, craftsmanship and ecofeminism, her work hints at the sacred emerging from the mundane. Through a series of transformations and alterations, she examines the nature of a material, reflecting on its evolutions across space and time. Shanie Tomassini’s work explores the potent aftermaths of an existential crisis and her ideas often crystallize around a shape that becomes a motif for poetic emancipation.

Shanie Tomassini is a Montréal-based visual artist. In 2019, she received an MFA in Sculpture at the University of Texas in Austin, where she received a number of awards including the UMLAUF Prize and the Cofa summer fellowship. She has presented her work in several solo exhibitions, namely at Clark Center (Montreal), at the UMLAUF Museum (Austin), at CIRCA Art Actuel (Montréal), and at the Courtyard Gallery (Austin). She has also shown her work at Sweet Pass Sculpture Park (Dallas), at Sporobole (Sherbrooke), at the Visual Art Centre (Austin), and at TAP Art Space (Toronto). In 2022 she will be a resident at the Rad’Art artist residency in San-Romano, Italy and at the Est-Nord-Est artist center in Quebec. She is currently a recipient of grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Quebec Council for Arts and Letters.

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Anaïs Castro

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Anaïs Castro is a curator and writer based in Montréal and Berlin. She holds a BFA in Art History from Concordia University and a Masters in Contemporary Art: History, Curating, Criticism from the University of Edinburgh. 

Over the past few years, she has curated a number of exhibitions in Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and China, including Moving Still | Still Moving at Art Mûr Montréal (2015), #self for Art Souterrain (Montréal, 2016), Self-Abstractions at Canada House (London, 2017), Over My Black Body at La Galerie de l’UQAM (Montreal, 2019), and at Spike Art Quarterly (Berlin, 2018). She is one of the founding members of the curatorial collective The Department of Love, which presented its first project in Shanghai in December 2018 and commissioned four performances by Debora Délmar, Jade Montserrat, Alvin Tran, and Steven Warwick as part of the Open Programme of Art Night London 2019. 

She participated in the inaugural Shanghai Curators Lab (2018), was a Curator-in-Residence at Art in General (Brooklyn, 2019), Titanik (Turku, 2017), and a Visiting Critic at BCA (Burlington, 2016). She is an editorial member of Daily Lazy and publishes regularly in esse art + opinionsEspace, and this is tomorrow

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