IAIN BAXTER&, C.C., O.Ont., O.B.C.
IAIN BAXTER& has had a substantial career and is recognized as one of Canada’s first conceptual artists and one of the most prolific and accomplished living artists in the country. For more than 60 years, he has challenged the definition and perception of art, utilizing sculpture and installation, painting, photography, video and performance art to engage audiences in contemporary social, political, informational and environmental issues. As a result, he has attracted a new generation of Canadians, has been featured in exhibitions worldwide and can be found in major national and international collections. His achievements have been recognized through major distinctions and prizes, among them the Order of Canada, the Order of British Columbia, the Order of Ontario, the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts and the Canada Council of the Arts Molson Prize. He is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, as well as a distinguished University Professor Emeritus at SOCA, the University of Windsor’s new School of Creative Arts.
- IAIN didn’t expect to be an artist. He was studying zoology at the University of Idaho when he was invited by one of his professors to illustrate a wildlife guidebook, Wildlife of the Northern Rocky Mountains. Soon, he was taking classes in watercolour painting and winning prizes.
- IAIN’s first solo show was held in Kyoto in 1961. The show demonstrated his early interest in byōbu, or Japanese folding screens, which he painted in an abstract manner.
- IAIN has been called the Marshall McLuhan of the visual arts. McLuhan was an early influence on IAIN. “I look at art as information. I look at fashion, carpets, electronics. I look for patterns. I never know when it’s going to happen but I’ll see something and I’ll get inspired.”
- IAIN’s early use of lightboxes went on to inspire a generation of artists, including those who are loosely grouped as belonging to the Vancouver School of photoconceptualism.
- In 2005 IAIN officially changed his surname to BAXTER&. On the ampersand: “I like language and play with it a lot. The ‘&’. I like meeting people. The endless power of ‘&’ is becoming a major thrust in what I’m about now. Here’s how those epiphanies happen. I was playing with the word ‘and,’ and realized if it goes backwards, it’s ‘dna’. The DNA of our language is ‘&’. I made an artwork about it. If you don’t have an ‘&’, everything flies apart. It’s world’s glue.”
- IAIN enjoys teaching and continues to mentor students at the University of Windsor. “Teaching is a bit off from my everyday experiences. It’s a bit of a zen moment. It’s about ideas and different ways of looking at everyday experiences. For example, I might send a class to find the centre of Windsor and make multimedia artworks about it.”
There’s minimalism, but I’m a maximalist: I work in whatever material or form the thing I’m trying to do needs.