In his east-end Toronto studio, artist Jason Baerg begins mixing blue and green paints with his painting knife.
“I’m thinking about the small creatures that are feeding off of the smaller creatures,” Baerg told Global News.
The Indigenous artist said much of his inspiration reflects back through cultural stories which he then projects in a new way — telling that narrative through his work.
INSPIRATIONAL INDIGENOUS INDIVIDUALS: World champion hoop dancer Lisa Odjig
His piece called Nomadic Bounce features painted pieces of laser cut wood which can take on different iterations to create large installations representing four rabbits, two wolves or it’s current form: a red-tail hawk.
Baerg’s laser cut painting installations are some of the world’s first produced and presented.
“I think the way I look as a Métis person often challenges the expectation of what it means to be Indigenous. I think about the look of the work as well it is also transgressive,” he said.
“I think I challenge stereotypical understandings.”
Conceptual themes in his work include Native relationality, community, survivance and language revitalization and to that end, Baerg often uses Indigenous words to title his pieces.
“I am Cree Métis from Saskatchewan and my great grandmother and my grandmother went to residential school. My mother went to day school. I went to day school,” Baerg said.
“A lot of contemporary Indigenous artists are reacclimating their cultures through their artistic practices.”
INSPIRATIONAL INDIGENOUS INDIVIDUALS: Water advocate Autumn Peltier
With the goal of inspiring other artists, Baerg currently holds the position of assistant professor at OCAD University’s faculty of art — teaching Indigenous practices in contemporary painting and media art.
“Just as I have been mentored, I am to mentor others,” he said.
A collection of Baerg’s work spanning 25 years of practice is on display at Cambridge Art Galleries – Idea Exchange until March 1.
If you know of an Inspirational Indigenous Individual, contact Melanie Zettler at email@example.com.