Born in São Paulo, Brazil.
Based in Toronto.
I am not driven by putting Portuguese symbols out there, but just really being myself… I am just speaking about who I am – Teresa Ascenção.
Teresa Ascenção is a multimedia artist and educator whose artworks transgress notions of gender, seduction and class. Born in Brazil to a family of Azorean immigrants, she has lived in Toronto since the age of 3. Her Portuguese, Azorean, and working-class roots are important themes in her work, in which she reflects on the meaning of these and other identities and lived experiences.
Teresa Ascenção was born in 1966, in Brazil, to immigrant parents from the Azores. Her father, from Terceira island, started working at age 7 to support his household after his father died. After the Colonial Wars began in Angola in 1961, he left for Brazil to escape the military draft. There he met his future wife, an immigrant from the Flores island. In 1969, when Teresa was 3 years old, they decided to move to Toronto, where they had family. Her father found a job as a meat cutter and her mother worked as a homemaker and nanny. After some time living with extended family, they bought a house on Davenport Road and Lansdowne Avenue, a multicultural working-class neighbourhood in West mid-town Toronto.
In her youth, Teresa’s liberal worldview often collided with her parents’ more conservative outlook. Especially around the gendered roles expected of her as a woman and her fewer privileges compared to the freedom enjoyed by her brother and friends. Her family disagreements and her own observations about ethnicity, gender, and class growing up in a diverse city shaped her critical thinking and self awareness.
Teresa’s interest in visual arts started when she was a child looking for a way to escape difficult moments in her life. Prompted by a friend’s advice, at age 18 she enrolled in the Humber College of Applied Arts and Technology, where she earned an Advertising and Graphic Design Diploma. After working in the marketing industry for several years, Teresa felt unfulfilled by its commercial and business nature and quit. In her 30s, she decided to go back to university and completed an Honours Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Toronto in 1998, followed by a Master of Fine Arts from the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) in 2011, specializing in media art and sex-positive feminism. During that time she also worked as an executive assistant, designer, and administrator with various employers.
In her multimedia artwork, Teresa has articulated and explored many of her longstanding questions about gender, class, ethnicity, religion, sexuality. Some of her work, like “Daily Bread,” “Wearing Black,” “Laced Cobblestone,” “Kodak Catholicism,” “Pantomime,” “Maria,” and “Portrait of a Young Bullfighter,” reflects on her background as a Portuguese and Azorean working-class immigrant woman. As an advocate for social and environmental causes, Teresa has also produced and facilitated interdisciplinary art residencies on the diversity of the human body and material and magical notions of water. As of 2023, shehad done over 21 presentations, 38 group exhibitions, and 23 solo exhibitions in Toronto, Hamilton, Cambridge, Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg, Kelowna, Kamloops, Moncton, New York, Roanake, Exeter, San Francisco, New Orleans, Seattle, São Paulo, Vienna, Sciacca, Berlin, Pico, and Terceira.
Teresa also teaches media arts, starting with the Ontario Arts Council’s funded Artists in Education Program in 2003-07, where she visited the Wasaho First Nations School in Fort Severn and Northern Lights Secondary School in Moosonee; then at the Toronto School of Art in 2002-11; then as a sessional instructor at OCAD since 2008 and at the University of Toronto since 2019; and as a freelance educator. She has led various citizen events towards sustainable and community-oriented goals, facilitated photo and media art workshops to economically and geographically disadvantaged youth, and led university student projects in accessibility and sustainability. Teresa is also a member of several Toronto-based arts organizations.
Hora dos Portugueses
Short description: Faial postcard
Origin: Faial, Azores
Date: January 1962
Description: Postcard with black and white photo of the Capelinhos volcano erupting on the Western coast of Faial island in 1957-8 on the front. On the back, a stamp reads “Foto Jovial. Faial – Açores,” and a handwritten message. “Janeiro 1962. Agradeço e retribuo so cumprimentos de Boas Festas, desejando-lhe inúmeras felicidades no Ano Novo. Artur Goulart” (January 1962. I thank you and reciprocate your Happy Holidays greetings, wishing you countless joy in the New Year. Artur Goulart).
Short description: Poem “Cismando”
Creator: Luis de Fraga
Origin: São Paulo, Brazil
Date: August 1965
Description: Poem written in Portuguese titled “Cismando” printed on a sheet of paper.
Short description: Peasant statuette
Description: Clay statuette of a barefoot male peasant figure wearing a humble hat, jacket, and ripped pants; holding a pipe in his mouth; a shoulder strap bag; and carrying two baskets with bundles of bananas, each hanging from a stick carried on his shoulders.
Short description: Toy mirror
Creator: Hong Hcag (?)
Description: Small handheld toy mirror consisting of a granular silver frame and handle, red transparent back with a decorative silver flower, and a scratched plastic mirror.
Short description: Sewing box
Origin: São Miguel, Azores
Materials: Wood and metal
Description: Wooden box with metal lock and coloured engraving of a woman and man in traditional garments dancing and playing a guitar, and the words “S. Miguel Açores.” Inside there is a thimble and other sewing tools.
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