Multimedia contemporary artist aims to inspire

Painting depicting Kwakwee Baker’s family history. | Photo courtesy of Kwakwee Baker

Kwakwee Baker, new age free style artist, will be auctioning his paintings July 29 to raise money for his son’s lacrosse trip and make room for his next collection. 

Baker’s original designs were paintings, carvings and drawings. His art evolved to 3D sculptures, polygrams, graphic designs and interactive designs where the viewer can be a participant by touching buttons for light bulbs to glow. He always incorporates art, storytelling and film.

“I’m 90% self-taught, but I had to teach myself by watching others,” says Baker, who is of Kwakwaka’wakw heritage. “My uncle, Oscar Matilpi, taught me how to do totem poles.”

Baker’s deceased uncle, Beau Dick, taught him mass and concepts. Baker considers him ‘a huge loss to our community.’ Tony Hunt, a master carver, was also Baker’s mentor. In addition, sculptor Tom Doucette, a family friend, was a big inspiration to Baker as a kid.

“He is white, but he does Native sculpting like you’ve never seen before,” Baker explains.

A chaotic start

I was an artist in my younger years, but I never took it seriously, and I wish I did because there were scholarships in high school in that regard but I wanted to play football,” says Baker.

Baker has had three near-death experiences. In 1992, he was paralyzed from waist down from a car accident and lost the Washington State football scholarship.

“That kind of ended my athletic career,” Baker says. “I couldn’t walk anymore.”

In 2003, Baker crashed into a light post while riding a bike. He broke his neck and lost sensation in his left arm but later gained most of it back. Last summer, Baker fell down into a river and broke his neck again in the same place.

“I was angry and I wasn’t paying attention and it costs you sometimes,” says Baker, who was born in Morocco with a Native and Celtic ancestry. “I currently live with chronic pain.”

Just after his second injury, Baker returned to his art.

Breaking down barriers

A lot of what inspires me now is the social and economical justice of Indigenous people,” explains Baker.

His work is based mostly on the lithology, history and legends of Indigenous people and how they coincide and reflect today’s modern times. Baker is a high ranking member who has rights to passages and imaging that he owns through intellectual property.

“I only do what most of the artists don’t. I don’t borrow from other people,” explains Baker. “I try different things but when it comes down to it I will use what I have rights to.”

Baker incorporates Indigenous masses, dances, songs and legends into his animated work.

“I would like to leave my paintings open ended so it can have multiple meanings for viewers,” he says. “It is important to me to inspire people.”

Baker wants his artwork to break down barriers or leave viewers inspired to learn more about culture, story or the art of wisdom.

“A lot of my pieces have that wisdom, but as an outside person you need to understand it,” Baker explains.

Baker grew up in a tough environment which led to his ‘recklessness’ during his youth. The accident ‘humbled’ Baker and changed the way he thought about life.

“These last few years really slowed me down and made me think what’s important in life,” Baker says.

Without thinking too far into the future or letting go of the past, Baker focuses on his children, being close to nature and enjoying moments with someone special. He wants to be remembered by his kids and make them proud.

“That seems to be the unfortunate part of famous artists,” says Baker. “They weren’t understood until they were gone.”

For more information, visit www.authenticindigenous.com/artists/kwakwee-baker.

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