Winter 2020

I hope this message finds you all well and in good spirits.

I’m slowly warming up to the 2020 buzz that’s out there. To keep the warm up going, I have news to share with you about my professional practice as an Artist/Researcher.

I appreciate your patience and the kind words many of you shared as I spent most of 2019 taking steps to bring new work to life. A big part of the work was/is putting together my upcoming solo exhibition --
Aesthetics of the Archives (invitation is below).

To make up for the lapse in time since my last news, this year-in-review edition is a longer version of what I plan to be a seasonal update (with occasional inter-seasonal messages). I’m trying to keep the channels of communication open more regularly.

I'm offering this newsletter as a chance for us to connect when we're not in touch by some other method. I hope you enjoy it.

Wishing you well, wherever you are in the world.


Aesthetics of the Archives
March 7 – April 26

I’ve been on a kind of quest these past few years. It’s a process of learning more about myself by learning about the stories of my family – who we are, where we come from, the people and places that matter.

I spent time listening to elders share stories with me. And I travelled to important ancestral places. Along the way, I was guided by beloved friends, old and new, while trying to get a sense of my place on this big rock we call Earth.

Aesthetics of the Archives is my offering back to you, community.

This solo exhibition (my first) is an attempt to distill and share part of my journey – who I am, where I come from, the people and places that matter.

There’s plenty of great programming from March 7 – April 26 at the
Art Gallery of Burlington (Canada). Mark your calendars for the Opening Celebration on March 14.

I hope we can continue this dialogue, in person or otherwise.
Aesthetics of the Archives
   Opening Celebration   
with Jess Miller
March 14

   Reading Aesthetics of the Archives   
with Whitney French
March 28

   Death, Dying and the Ancestors   
with Danielle F. Lobo
April 11

   A Running Thread: Quilting Bloodlines   
April 25
Learn More
Free School: Rethinking Archives

April 8

Meditate / Study / Serve

– anonymous
Looking back, 2019 was a year of introspection for me. If we’re talking insects, think butterfly, cocoon phase. Going to the inner reaches of myself to prepare for some serious wing spreading.

I shared in the past that the
Anitafrika Method, created by d’bi.young anitafrika, is an ongoing support that I use in my holistic self-development. In the deck that goes with the method, I recently re-discovered the above quote – “meditate, study, serve”. It resonated with my 2019 vibe and is a reminder of how I’m trying to live in 2020.

Here are some more supports that helped me along the way.
Residenc(e)y Time

Time can do strange things when we step out of our everyday routine. Have you ever noticed it? The pace of life moves quickly and slowly at the same time. For me, it’s a trip. This past year I was fortunate to step out of ordinary time often.
The Meditation Hall at the Ontario Vipassana Centre
Credit: Ontario Vipassana Centre
Going Within

I kicked off the New Year in silence. A 10-day silent meditation retreat at the
Ontario Vipassana Centre was a welcome change of pace from busy downtown Toronto.

With a group of over 70 other meditators I learned the technique of Vipassana – “
to see things as they really are”. Both challenging and rewarding, I find the technique helps me to make friends with my struggles. And, with regular practice, I have more energy to navigate life’s ups and downs.

The results are real.

A despacho created by participants at the
November 2019 Ancestral Lineage Healing Intensive in Toronto
Credit: Ancestral Medicine
The Ancestors

A central focus of my recent work is family ancestry. Thanks to a good friend, I was introduced to the work of
Ancestral Medicine and their Ancestral Lineage Healing Intensive.

Over 3 days, I was guided through ways to connect with family ancestors that were very much as advertised: "psychologically grounded, ritually safe, and culturally mindful". Working through family blessings and burdens and learning to relate to my well ancestors has been a welcome addition to my roster of supporters.

Warm thanks to the other participants and to practitioners
Shannon Willis and Shannon Ledford for holding the space with kindness.
Clockwise from top: A view of the Burlington waterfront looking out to Lake Ontario; The Florence Spirit making its way towards the Burlington Lift Bridge; A visitor parking sign leading to the Art Gallery of Burlington
Burlington? Yes, Burlington.

I'm grateful to have been selected as one of two 2019/20
John Willard Fibre Artists in Residence at the Art Gallery of Burlington (Canada). I was curious to learn about this waterfront city just east of Hamilton, a stones throw places my ancestors and relatives once lived.

For 2 weeks in fall 2019, I had access to studio space and time to work out ideas for my current art project. Besides catching a weaving itch that I intend to scratch in the future, I met a hard-working group of staff, volunteers and guilds that make the AGB a wonderful place to be.

I’m excited to exhibit my work there this spring (more on that below).
As much as I’m learning to teach, I consider myself very much a student. With this wonderful world, and all the people in it, there are so many opportunities to learn. Here is a sample of what I studied last year.
Installation view of All of My Blues, 2019, Desmond A. Miller
From The Ground Up opening reception
Credit: Emilie Croning
Nia Centre for the Arts A-I-R

2019 started with the end of an artist-in-residence program at
Nia Centre for the Arts in Toronto, Canada. I spent three months sharing studio space with a talented group of artists and studying fractal geometry.

As the outcome of my learning I created a series of five textile-based images -- All of My Blues (displayed above). Thanks to everyone who visited our exhibition
From The Ground Up in February 2019. Big ups to staff at Nia and curator Emilie Croning for crafting a space for ideas to germinate and sprout.
Getting busy screenprinting before the ink dries!

It felt like I was in a creative funk towards the end of spring. To get my juices going again, a flurry of creative workshops was just what I needed.
evening workshop at Gallery 44 with Gabrielle Moser got me thinking differently about archiving as well as my own journey with my current project.

3 full Saturdays of screen-printing with
Sharon Epstein at the Contemporary Textile Design Studio Co-op had me way into my body, acting spontaneously. Sharon’s enthusiasm for trying new things was contagious.

A 30-day online writing course Human Is What We Are, curated lovingly by
Bryonie Wise, guided me to tenderly unearth what may have been blocking my creative flow.

These three doses of reflecting and doing got me up and running again.
A wild rose photographed along the Belle Cote
on sunny Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, traditional Miꞌkmaq Territory
Learning on the Internet

I never knew an online course could be so much fun.

At least that was my experience of the
Practical Animism and Foundations of Ritual courses offered by Ancestral Medicine. Taught by Dr. Daniel Foor, the lessons provided new (to me) language and reputable resources that helped me try on a different way of viewing the world than I received growing up.

The combination of reflections and practical exercises is where the magic of integration happened for me (are we seeing a trend?). I’m starting to practice seeing myself as one person in relation to a whole host of other-than-human beings in the world (and navigate all the glorious messiness that comes with).

Thanks to the Ancestral Medicine team for their integrity and care in this ongoing process of reconnecting with the earth.

Expect to see influences from all of this studying in Aesthetics of the Archives.
As I start to get a sense of some of my gifts, and how I can use them with humility, I’m trying to be of useful service.

Here are a few of my offerings -- past, ongoing and upcoming.
Where Are You Now?

For a second time I was invited to facilitate a workshop with IBPOC (Indigenous, Black, People of Colour) youth as part of the Seed Soil Society program at the
Children’s Peace Theatre.

We learned about three Toronto-based artists –
Charmaine Lurch, Anique Jordan and Camille Turner – making impactful work that speaks to Black presences in Toronto. And we reflected on our own places here on Dish with One Spoon Territory. My heart/mind was encouraged by the wise and critical insights these youth shared during our time together.

Props to Jamaias DaCosta and the CPT team for birthing this innovative programming.


Conversations about HIV prevention were not high on my list of priorities four and a half years ago. That changed after I started working with
weSpeak. Learning about the inequities in HIV and healthcare outcomes for Black communities in general, and heterosexual Black men in particular, was a motivator for me to try and normalize discussions about these issues.

Given the taboos of talking about HIV and sexual health, it's sometimes challenging to bridge these topics with people when doing research. Though when approached gently, and put it into context of holistic health, you might be surprised at how willing guys were to engage in discussions. With so little research focused on the health outcomes of heterosexual Black men, it's been a real privilege participating in dialogue about our role in transforming masculinities, balancing power dynamics amongst genders and contributing to well-being in our communities.

Our team is putting more of our research findings out there, including these
"Real Talk Sessions" based on what we heard from participants. They shared about a range of issues like Black masculinities and anti-Black racism. We’ve got one more phase of the project to go before wrapping up in early 2021. Wish us luck for a strong finish (which is hopefully just the start of putting research findings into practice in the community).
Stay in Touch
It's great to hear from you.

Please feel free to write in and share what's happening with you.

Your feedback, comments or updates are welcome.
A note: weblinks are not necessarily endorsements. I do my best to reference the people whose work influenced me and share my experiences of their work. It’s part of my art/research practice. I hope you find the links useful.
Title image credit: to The Heart of The Path, 2019, ink screenprinted on cotton muslin. Desmond A. Miller
Copyright © 2020 Desmond A. Miller, All rights reserved.

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Desmond A. Miller · 567 Avenue Road · Toronto, On M4V2K1 · Canada

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