Visiting Strangers: What Can We Learn?

Date: Thursday July 18
Time: 7:00 pm
Cost: FREE – Registration encouraged. Visitors are welcome to attend one conversation or all four!

How does travelling, meeting, and conversing with strangers impact the creative process? “Foreigners Everywhere” is the theme of the Venice Biennale this year. In this participatory discussion, Nyle “Miigizi” Johnston and Joel Richardson  will offer observations based on their experience at the Biennale and offer an opportunity for us to make connections with each other, focusing on what we hold in common rather than our differences.

The exhibition, Gaganoonidiwag/They Talk To Each Other, extends beyond the artwork to include conversations between the artists and visitors. Visiting Strangers: What Can We Learn is the second of four participatory conversations. Visitors are welcome to join the conversation, or simply listen and learn together.

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Credit: Gaganoonidiwag #1, Joel Richardson and Nyle Miigizi Johnston, silk screen & mixed media on board, 2024. Courtesy of the artists.

Nyle “Miigizi” Johnston’s spirit name, Wiishkoonseh Miigizi’enh, means Whistling White Headed Eagle. He grew up in Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation and apprenticed with Storytellers since his youth. Sources of his artistic inspiration include woodland painters, Story Tellers and the traditions of his indigenous culture. Johnston notes: “In a time of reconciliation, it is important for all people to know that we exist and have such a strong, beautiful legacy of stories and teachings from the Anishinaabe Nation that are grounded in my experience and identity.” A painter, mural artist, traditional storyteller, and traditional helper, Johnston uses his gift of storytelling to connect his peoples’ stories of love and healing with the broader world and offer support to a range of community organizations. His work has been exhibited across many of Canada’s most important institutions, from the AGO and ROM to the Evergreen Brickworks and the Chippewas of Nawash Cultural Centre. His artistic practice is focused on illustrating stories of the Anishinaabe Nation in a variety of media in order to raise awareness of their unique histories as they in turn inform his process. He was born and raised on his beautiful reserve, Neyaashiinigmiing, on the Saugeen Peninsula (Bruce Peninsula) and took a keen interest in painting and art at a very young age.  Johnston has an established portfolio of work and is well recognized in Toronto. His original works are showcased at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in the Jennings Young gallery (J.S. McLean Centre for Indigenous & Canadian Art). Johnston’s Diiyah Muh’gaanag (Our First Family) is a collection of images of spiritual beings, plants and animals based on Anishinaabe teachings. Drawn in a pictographic style, they tell stories of botany, astrology and the interconnectedness of all living things. Johnston currently lives in Toronto, Ontario, and is a contributing member to the Indigenous & Canadian collection at the AGO 

Joel Richardson is a multi-media artist whose work spans over twenty years. His extensive body of art includes large scale installation, performance, re-workings of digital technology, video projections, film, portrait and mural painting. He rose to national attention in 2011 when then Toronto mayor Rob Ford erased his 150 meter long mural of a series of suitmen and women in business attire interspersed with the extensive Black-Scholes equation. This work was commissioned by the city of Toronto. The significance of this work with the eeriness of the Black-Scholes equation and its shady application to legally manipulate the stock markets, translated into further shows in New York, Miami, Moscow and Toronto.  His recent major projects include a large-scale multi-faceted historical exhibition in collaboration with the Tom Thomson Gallery. He is currently working with Olympic champion Matthew Birrir on the “Metipso Portal”, an international community interactive collaboration with many participants and moving parts. Richardson states: “I am interested in how false representation can shape truth; what is sacred and what is profane and how they intersect and are intertwined. This often complex relationship between the sacred and the untrue – is at the core of my art practice.” 

Virginia M. Eichhorn has worked in the visual arts field for over thirty years. A professor at Georgian College (Barrie Campus), she focuses on post-graduate advanced museum and gallery studies, fine arts, and cultural studies. With an emphasis on ecological, environmental, non-traditional exhibition spaces and community outreach and collaborations, her work as an independent curator has seen her presenting exhibitions at numerous prestigious venues including the XII Biennale of Art at Villa Nova Cerveira in Portugal. She has worked extensively with artists from across Canada and abroad, including Carl Beam, Judy Chicago, Maria Hupfield, Vessna Perunovich, Jane Ash Poitras, Jack Sures, Peter Von Tiesenhausen, and Tim Whiten, developing exhibitions for high profile Canadian galleries and museums such as the Royal Ontario Museum. In addition to curating, she has written numerous catalogue essays and has contributed articles to prominent Canadian magazines including Artichoke, Canadian Art, Border Crossings, ESPACE Sculpture and international magazines such as Ceramics Monthly and for institutions including the National Gallery of Canada, the MacKenzie Art Gallery and others. In 2009 she won the Jean Johnson/Melanie Egan Award for Curatorial Excellence awarded by the Ontario Crafts Council.