Tag Archives: Jordan Miller

Dog Whistles

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A friend of mine, Jordan Miller, is a gallery owner. She also rents out space for small events. Recently, a local wing of a political group rented her space for an upcoming meeting. She agreed and the meeting was scheduled.

Sometime later, she receives an e-mail warning her to cancel the event unless she wants a boycott of her business. The e-mail comes from Omar Kinnarath, an activist who appears to be quite active speaking against the alt-right. (I’m guessing from the alt-right’s point of view, that makes him antifa? Correct me if I’m wrong.)

My friend tells me about the situation and it doesn’t take much Googling to find out that the political party that rented her space was the People’s Party of Canada. It’s a party that was just created last year. About a week ago, several members of the party resigned after learning about racist members in the group. From what little I gather, it seems to be one of those typical libertarian types which unfortunately is a gateway to extreme rightwing politics. They want to privatize the postal service, have more private companies in the healthcare system, limit immigration, ease gun ownership, etc. They sound nuts.

Anyone would be smart to stay away from this group fresh from the controversy that they just had, especially if you’re a gallery that caters to an open community of artists.

Now, the PPC as well as their supporters are spinning the story that my friend has a “struggling gallery” and that she was “terrorized” by Omar Kinnarath into reneging on lending out her gallery space. They labeled Omar Kinnarath, who happens to be brown, as a “terrorist” and my friend, who happens to be a white woman, a “small woman” and a “young woman.” (Note the save-the-white-woman misogyny here.) Some guy with a video channel on Facebook hanging a Gadsden flag in his studio recounts the events and even says that my friend was “directly attacked.” There are so many racist dog whistles here that it’s hard to miss. I’m just glad she didn’t go to that guy’s poorly-lit basement for an interview.

The Winnipeg Free Press wrote a story about the whole thing, with the headline “Anti-racists labeled as ‘terrorists’ by the PPC.” And yeah, it is ironic that the PPC, being accused of being racists, accuses an activist who happens to be brown, a “terrorist,” thus showing their racist colors. People online are accusing those who oppose the PPC as being against free speech, but free speech does not give everyone the right to say anything at a private property. My friend’s gallery is her property and she exercised her will and her free speech by reneging on the agreement. Omar Kinnarath exercised his free speech by telling my friend that he will boycott her gallery if she associates with what appears to be an organization that has racist members.

The whole episode is unfortunate, and it’s sad that my friend, who couldn’t care less about politics, had to be dragged along with it. But here’s a few pointers moving forward:

-If racists are on your side, then you’re probably doing something wrong. If you’re against “anti-fascists,” then you’re probably doing something wrong as well. Yeah, I know, some members of antifa can be unruly, but stick to the topic. What-aboutism is a lazy argument.

-Privatizing the postal service is dumb. When was the last time you saved so much money on UPS? Privatization leads to citizens relinquishing things to private companies, NOT competition in a capitalist society (True capitalism doesn’t exist these days). At least if something is run by the government, leaders are still accountable to their voters. Large private companies couldn’t care less about their customers.

-The Gadsden flag has been adopted by racists, thus making it racist, just like the okay hand gesture. If racists think it’s cool, then maybe stop using it.

-Free speech is not ultimate. Any first year law textbook will tell you that it has limits. Free speech also doesn’t protect people from the consequences of their speech. If a previous action is offensive, then maybe I won’t be too open in allowing you to practice your free speech in my private property. It’s not that difficult to follow.

-I don’t really know much about the PPC, especially whether they truly have racist members, but judging from the whole interaction, I would guess they don’t mind tolerating racism among their ranks. A proper political party that truly cares for a multi-cultural community (and actually wants to win support) would have handled this situation better.

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The Beauty of Studio Galleries

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My good friend, Jordan Miller, just aired her woes regarding running a studio gallery. I want to reply with my two cents.

First off, for the holidays, I doubt if many people buy art, especially in a city like Winnipeg in this economy. People do love looking at art… they love looking, but not just Winnipeg in particular, but the whole world in general. For someone to actually buy art, they often have to be invested in the piece or the artist already. That or they just have money to throw around at that moment. So yeah, either you have a fan or you’re lucky enough to come across someone truly compelled to buy your work.

And really this holiday, galleries and all other shops are competing against Amazon and Walmart when it comes to shopping for presents. When it comes to compelling imagery, they’re competing against the whole Internet and the world’s ADHD culture. It’s an uphill battle, and it’s a small miracle and badge on the artist every time someone buys art.

This is where I think a studio gallery has to utilize the artists it has. I think many new artists are under the assumption that once they’re in a gallery, it’s the gallery owner or curator’s responsibility to shepherd new audiences to them. To some extent, this is true. Being in a gallery brings about art enthusiasts as well as other gallery owners. But in a generally static market like Winnipeg, artists cannot expect their audience to grow if they keep on showing their stuff at the same studio gallery. To grow an audience, each artist in a collective should be introducing their friends to other artists in the collective, and thus, growing their community and their audiences. So let’s say there’s an open house, each artist in a studio gallery should at least try to invite friends to come over and see their works as well as the other artists’. “Studio artists tell me they want new people in, not just the people they know.” True. So each artist should bring the people they know and maybe they’ll buy their neighbor’s work and vice versa.

Another way to solve the “new people in, not just the people they know” dilemma is for gallery owners and artists to be sharing information regarding calls for submissions. I was once a part of an art collective in South Korea, and one thing I liked about the community is that people were sharing information and leads regarding opportunities. The organizer would encourage members to take part in shows. This encourages artists to be more productive and be part of the community. It also gives them more experience and hopefully leads them to a much better portfolio. Artists don’t have to be limited to their local community. It’s what the Internet is for. And with several eyeballs scouring the Internet for opportunities and sharing them, that should make the world of artists in a studio gallery a little bit bigger.

My friend mentioned that some artists make deals with buyers and sell work to them privately instead of going through the gallery and losing a commission. Now, there really is no way to work around this unless galleries start forcing artists to sign exclusivity contracts. But really, I think this comes down to the artists themselves. Personally, I feel grateful if a gallery hung my work and happened to find a buyer for me. That’s one person who may have never run into my work and I owe it to the gallery for making the connection. I believe artists should do the right thing and make sales through galleries rather than wait for their work to come down. Buyers wouldn’t normally care if the artist loses on commission or not. And artists, despite finances and all, should really be willing to support galleries who gave them a chance in the first place.

Now, with the two things considered: artists wondering why my gallery owner friend is not shepherding in new audiences for them and artists making private sales, I would assume this comes to either selfishness (and laziness) in the artists’ part or a fundamental opportunity missed by everyone. Perhaps the economy is bad that artists cannot afford to be generous to galleries in return, or perhaps the artists don’t realize how a small studio gallery in a city like Winnipeg could work for them.

So there you have it. If you’re an artist in a studio gallery, take advantage of your community and share resources and opportunities. Be more proactive, if not in your local arts community, then at least over the Internet. Maybe I’m biased because Jordan, the gallery owner, is my best friend, but don’t leave everything to the gallery owner or curator. There’s only so much they can do to help you.

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Morning Oddity

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I created a page for my skeleton/tentacle drawings (http://josephmreyes.com/Lou.html). The series is still work in progress but it’s a stage where pieces are already shown in some galleries. The name’s an amalgam of my best friend Jordan Miller (http://www.jordanlmiller.com/) and artist Lou Valcourt, whose works with icons I saw years ago but was kinda embedded in my memory. The idea heavily influenced the series.

So the boxing match was a big dud. I can see why boxing isn’t so popular these days. All that hype for a game of keep away. Not that I blame Mayweather. He’s not about to hurt himself when he’s got millions to enjoy regardless of whether he wins or loses. It was like watching a fight between Bill Gates and Carlos Slim. “Hey Carl, let’s not hurt each other so much. We still have awesome lives to after this.” I guess this is the difference between UFC and boxing at the moment, and why UFC is more popular. The fighters are hungrier.

What was interesting though is what happened to our table before the fight. So we’re sitting in a sports bar in Seoul, a bar popular among expats. It was me, my wife, and a good artist friend. This Korean guy goes in and out of the bar looking lost. He’s dressed like he’s going to work (not relaxed at all) and carrying bags of who knows what. So the first time I saw him walk in, I assumed he was delivering something. But then he keeps coming back and not saying a word to anyone. Being the only brown person in the bar at the moment (it was 10:00 am), he goes to me and asks where the “Filipino bar” was at. He said he wanted to watch the fight with Filipinos.

I pointed out a Filipino restaurant in the area, but they weren’t open to show the fight. My friend directed him to a different neighborhood where he guaranteed Filipino bars would be showing the fight, and off he goes.

Now, what would a Korean guy want to watch the fight for in a bar filled with Filipino strangers? What was the pay off? Was it to cheer for Pacquiao? Most of the people in the bar we were at were cheering for Pacquiao, and there were a handful of Filipinos there as well. Why specifically look for Filipinos? It’s not like Filipinos cheer differently. It would be equally strange to go looking around for a “black bar” in order to watch the fight with black strangers.
Again, this guy got dressed, packed some stuff, and went out at 10:00 am on a Sunday telling himself, “I’m gonna specifically look for Filipinos and watch the most boring fight in the world with them.”

Strange people. My wife blames me for the weird encounter. She says I attract strange people. I tend to agree.

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Ow! My Back!

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Ugh! I hurt my back this morning. It’s a dumb cliché, but seriously, Mondays aren’t working out for me lately. First I had tremendous migraines, and now I hurt my back and walk as if I’m pregnant.

Last Friday was my best friend’s birthday. A great artist, gallery owner, as well as community figure, Jordan Miller. http://www.jordanlmiller.com/ She’s one of the many reasons why I will always be tied to Winnipeg and will always consider it home. I’ve already bought tickets and we’re scheduled to visit her sometime in the future. I can’t wait to hang out and watch her down at least a dozen rum and diet Cokes.

Tonight, we’ll be celebrating my wife’s best friend’s birthday which happens to be today. Jordan, if you’re reading this, you’re way cooler and I would rather drink away my Monday night with you, bad back and all.

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