Gallery owner finally putting her own work on display
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Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek wrote a 2014 book titled Leaders Eat Last, focusing on strategies that can bring teams together rather then breaking them apart.
While no one’s going hungry at Winnipeg’s Cre8ery gallery, owner and executive director Jordan Miller has followed Sinek’s leadership axiom when rescheduling two years of exhibitions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Her show with Sari Habiluk was originally planned for 2021, but she chose to put other artists’ postponed exhibitions first in the queue when the gallery was allowed to reopen.
That meant Current Connections, which finally opens today at the Adelaide Street gallery, was sent to the back of the Cre8ery line.
“(We’re) actually the very last reschedule,” Miller says.
“I said to Sari, ‘I can’t do a show in my gallery when I’m rescheduling all these artists.’ The person who had the show in April 2020, I put him into our spot in 2021.”
The extra time, and a different artistic outlook tied to the difficulties brought on by the pandemic, has led to changes in how Miller and Habiluk have approached their work.
Miller moved to St. Andrews, and the country life has allowed her to look at the sky differently. Her clearer view of the heavens shows in works such as Wish Upon a Star, which follows a pointillist style.
“I grew up in a small town and my grandparents have a family farm, so any time I needed to do some deep thinking, I would go out and look at the stars. I really missed that about country living,” Miller says. “When I came out here I got some peace, because the only thing I can see from my condo window downtown are the bright lights of the city and dark sky.
“I call it a dot for a thought, so I was doing a lot of heavy thinking and processing what’s going on around me while I was working on those pieces.”
Miller has taken on a mentoring role for Habiluk since she joined the Cre8ery membership in 2015, and that’s meant Habiluk following a more interpretive path.
“I was doing a lot more landscapes, more basic ‘painting what you see,’” Habiluk says. “Thanks to Jordan, my focus is on intuitive abstract. You pick your colours and you just go. Nothing is pre-planned, pre-determined, you go with what you feel.”
Six collaborations are among the 30 paintings in the exhibition, including a blue-and-green-coloured work with a figure emerging from the darkness that Miller says offers a hopeful view of the future.
“Originally, it was going to be a lot more collaborations and solo pieces each, and then her life changed quite a bit and my life changed quite a bit,” Miller says. “So trying to find the time for the collaborations, passing the pieces back and forth, there was a long period where I didn’t see her at all.”
Habiluk says the collaborative process would begin with one of them starting to paint and passing it on after a while. The other artist would then work on it and afterwards the painting would return to the original artist for more details.
Habiluk was surprised to see what happened to one of her originals after Miller had put down her brush and passed the painting back.
“Once or twice, I would start, for example, and the colours would be mostly be orange, yellow, purple. But when it came back the colours had completely changed and some extra forms were in there,” Habiluk says. “It would definitely give me some new terrain to work on. It was like adding another piece to the puzzle.”
Miller has kept Cre8ery a going concern for most of the past two years, and has managed to squeeze in time to paint, despite all the difficulties COVID-19 has posed.
She has Type 1 diabetes and chronic fatigue syndrome, and while many people have tossed their masks away and have resumed a pre-pandemic lifestyle, she continues to wear masks in public and follows physical distancing.
She hasn’t contracted the virus and hopes to keep it that way. When Current Connections opens at 11 a.m. today, there will be no fancy gala that brings friends and family together. Those who visit must wear a mask.
“Who would know that we’d still be dealing with these same things, and you can take your mask off and just be normal,” she says. “I’m not comfortable with that. I’m not comfortable about if other people get COVID in my space. I don’t want someone to die because they came to Cre8ery.”
Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.