Of San Diego With John Raymond Mireles

I met John Raymond Mireles while working out of the Kensington Library. I’ve been increasingly spending time in public libraries, because unlike a coffee shop, I don’t feel like the meter is running. I’m just allowed to be. There is usually a water fountain and a restroom. The atmosphere is civil and inclusive.

I work from home often enough, but something human in me likes the quiet bustle of parallel activity as motivation to be productive.

He had an interesting posture for being in a library, mostly looking above the books than at them. I overheard in conversation with the librarian, that he had recently secured a grant from the city and was tasked with installing some of his work in some of the libraries of the city.

I call him over to chat and ask what sort of art he gets into.

The San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture made John the first ever Exposure Photo Fellow 2023-2024. He was scoping the library today to see if or where he might install some of his art.

I told John that I love the art scene here in San Diego.

He disagreed. Or rather, that there are artists here making interesting work, but they aren’t succeeding in an enmeshed way as they might be elsewhere. He seemed to think that an artist looking to actually suceed should leave. Go to Los Angeles, go to New York, maybe even Detroit.

I nodded. Likely so.

We both were a little confused at it. There are a lot of ingredients for artistic success here in San Diego. Namely people with money. The money just isn’t really flowing towards artists.

Maybe people working 50, 60 or 70 hour weeks don’t like, go out to shows or galleries or exhibits too often.

Our conversation drifts through a mix of socialism, capitalism, contracting, grants, libraries and a few other tangents. We chat about a few art collectives around town and their governance and finances. Everyone seems to be playing it fairly close to the metal.

He ascribed much of his own success as a result of simply presenting oneself as the preeminant photographer. It sounds like he’s carved a nice niche in photography by holding out for the right contracts. He exuded a positive and constructive vibe around the labor and economics of art as he has constructed his career.

I spoke a little about what I was hoping to do in the community, as an artist or blogger or citizen who just likes art.

He thinks San Diego could use a character like Jerry Saltz (wikipedia).

I’m just a frustrated technologist who’s broken hearted at a culture that only kind of in theory seems to value human life. I think I just want good community centered around art. I want to see my friends succeed in their art. I’d like to see less of them washing dishes or running doordash or uprooting to a different city to be able to live.

I think that now especially, we are in a period of social rebuilding. Covid has estranged us from a lot of old practices. How can we build community that doesn’t draw us into the depths of social media doomscrolling or a pyramid scheme or a cult or worse yet, grad school?

SEO! Tags! Pay me to make something pretty for your wall! Our prison system is an atrocity! It’s not clear that our system of finance does much beyond extract human value! Maybe this country has enough resources to provide for itself, but the wealthy seem to need a climate of suffering so people will keep doing what they want!

The things I want to say as an artist aren’t exactly profitable.

I’ve found work as a sound tech at a church, so that’s not exactly true, they do say some of those things. They say a bunch of other stuff too, but I think a society should be made of interactions between people with different goals and values helping each other succeed.

Maybe existance is just wasteful and we do need more people to stare at computer screens to do whatever the board tells them to.

Maybe we need to make more art, organize better, and learn how to write a grant proposal.

John Raymond Mireles' work was recently featured at the San Diego Museum of Art. I hope to see his work adorn the Kensington library soon.