On Tuesday, Jason Baerg, a Mason Gross School of the Arts alum, gave an artist talk at the Civic Square Building (CSB) in downtown New Brunswick to introduce his solo exhibition, "Jason Baerg: Selected Works From Tawâskweyâw."
Baerg is a member of the Métis Nations of Ontario and is from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, in Canada. His exhibit debuted as part of Mason Gross Galleries' Co-Cureate series on Saturday and is on display at the CSB through October 17.
Richard Siggillino, the curator of this exhibition and the gallery coordinator in the Department of Art and Design at Mason Gross, said that Co-Cureate's annual showcase is intended to be an opportunity for students to take on curation as a creative exercise.
The name of the showcase, therefore, is a portmanteau of "curate" and "create." The goal of this year's exhibition is to promote Indigenous creatives, he said.
Siggillino started working with Baerg, who received his Master of Fine Arts from Mason Gross in 2016, when Marc Handelman, the Department of Art and Design chair, invited the artist to return to Rutgers this summer.
After these early discussions, the three selected Baerg's works that were most representative of their artistic scope, Siggillino said.
"We couldn't think of anyone better to invite to participate in this exhibition series than Baerg, as they're a major voice in contemporary Indigenous art right now, and their work has so much to offer in terms of its perspective, vision and breadth," he said.
Baerg specializes in laser cutting, an art practice in which a laser cuts through a material such as glass or wood using a digital file as a template, according to Mason Gross' website.
Siggillino said the resulting fragments can be arranged so that each iteration of the same work can come out looking completely different from previous versions.
He said that Baerg's work is unique in the artist's ability to draw inspiration from their cultural and personal background with fluid methods unbound to a medium. Ultimately, he said this aspect of Baerg's portfolio makes for healthy intellectual engagement between the art and its observers, including current Rutgers students.
Baerg's Tawâskweyâw collection, which translates to "a path or gap among the trees," incorporates themes of community, urban migration and language revitalization, among other topics central to Indigenous identity in North America, according to his portfolio.
Given Rutgers' history as an institution built on Indigenous land, Siggillino said it is important for the University to interact with Indigenous creatives and recognize their contributions to society. Programs like those by Co-Cureate are made to structurally and systemically support this mission, he said.
"It is our hope that our student body is able to engage with their work in a way in which they can develop a greater understanding of what painting and new media work can be," Siggillino said.