Barry Ace


How Can You Expect Me To Reconcile When I Know The Truth? (2018) $80,000
Wood, hemp rope, metal, linen, organza, bronze screen, electronic components, glass beads, deer hide, cotton thread, vinyl
220 (w) x 180 (d) x 270 (h) cm

In 2018, Ace created the work How can you expect me to reconcile, when I know the truth? during his OCADU Nigig Visiting Artist Residency addressing this horrific and shameful legacy of the residential schools and the pain and suffering of the survivors who attended them, along with their families and communities who are still enduring these memories and inter-generational trauma and culture loss.

This work is dedicated to the memory of all children of these residential schools and their families. It is a call for debwewin (the Anishinaabemowin word for truth) and public awareness about this devastating scar on Canada’s history. We must never forget what happened at these schools, and Canada must fully address and implement the Calls to Action tabled by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission if we are ever going to collectively heal

Melvina McGregor (Sagamok) and Cecil Ace (M’Chigeeng) circa 1922. Spanish Residential Schools (Spanish, Ontario). Photo: Mary Ace Ense.

Spanish Residential Schools (Spanish, Ontario). Photo Credit: The Shingwauk Project Algoma University College

Spanish Residential Schools (Spanish, Ontario). Photo Credit: The Shingwauk Project Algoma University College

Spanish Residential Schools (Spanish, Ontario). Photo Credit: The Shingwauk Project Algoma University College



Transformer (2019) $5,000

Mixed media
106 (l) x 38 (h) x 25 (w) cm / 15″ x 5″ x 42″

In 2019, Ace undertook a residency in his home community of M’Chigeeng First Nation with master Anishinaabe potter David Migwans, David  refined his pottery techiniques alongside his wife Ann Beam and cousin to the late Carl Beam. Working exclusively with locally sourced clay from Manitoulin and surrounding area, they experimented with different firing techniques and additives such as sand, minerals and other materials to give the clay strength, texture, colour, refractive qualities and to abate shrinkage. Decoration of the pottery included mineral and slip based natural paints and hematite polished surfaces in lieu of commercial paints and glazes.

The premise for Ace’s residency was to examine the work of a specific Anishinaabe artist represented in the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation’s art collection and then to work with them to study process and learn technique in the creation of new works that incorporate an intervention of Ace’s electronic component work. Working both at David’s outdoor home studio and at the newly installed pottery studios at the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation, Ace and Migwans collaborated in creating several new innovative pots. Several of the pots were vitrified in an outdoor kiln, which rendered a higher risk of shattering during the vitrification process (the melting of crystalline silicate compounds into the amorphous, noncrystalline atomic structure associated with glass). Ace’s ectronic components were added after the successful firing.

The importance of traditional-based learning environments and mentorship is unequivocally imperative to the art of learning to make. It is only through an exchange of traditional knowledge, shared culture-based experience and collective memory that we are able to truly define cultural continuity, as demonstrable through the longstanding confluence between the historical and contemporary of our deeply rooted and ancient Anishinaabeg traditions. For Ace, the experience of working with David Migwans is a profoundly moving one, on so many levels. But perhaps equally profound is the literal connection as a maker with clay drawn directly from our homeland and the shaping of that earth into something tangible and meaningful, as a sovereign act of being Anishinaabe.




Erased (2017) $13,000
Found boots, capacitor, resistors, light emitting diodes, glass beads, pony beads, synthetic hair, tin cones, telephone wire
106 (l) x 38 (h) x 25 (w) cm / 15″ x 5″ x 42″

Like trailing fringe on Indigenous footwear erasing the tracks of the wearer, AIDS erased the lives of friends and lovers, as the privileged class marginalized the Queer community to take care of our infected and dying.  Through activism, we challenged homophobia for our survival and healing. Like Anishinaabeg floral medicine motifs, the digital age provides new interconnectivity for sharing and healing, so the lives of our courageous warriors who pushed our community forward will not be forgotten.





“My textile practice draws its inspiration from historical Anishinaabeg arts of the Great Lakes that incorporate floral and geometric beadwork motifs. I up-cycle reclaimed and salvaged electronic components and circuitry (capacitors and resistors) transforming the refuse of the technological age into complex floral motifs. In doing so, I am referencing Anishinaabeg beadwork as a metaphor for cultural continuity, bridging the past with the present and the future, and as a demonstrable act of nationhood, resistance and modernity. My contemporary practice intentionally, yet respectfully, transcends and moves forward Anishinaabeg cultural boundaries as a confluence between the historical and contemporary.”

Barry Ace is a practicing visual artist and currently lives in Ottawa. He is a debendaagzijig (citizen) of M’Chigeeng First Nation, Odawa Mnis (Manitoulin Island), Ontario, Canada. Ace’s work embraces the impact of the digital age and how it exponentially transforms and infuses Anishinaabeg culture (and other global cultures) with new technologies and new ways of communicating. His work attempts to harness and bridge the precipice between historical and contemporary knowledge, art, and power, while maintaining a distinct Anishinaabeg aesthetic connecting generations.

As a practicing visual artist, his work has been included in numerous group and solo exhibitions, including: Emergence from the Shadows – First Peoples Photographic Perspectives, Canadian Museum of Civilization (1999: Gatineau, Quebec); Urban Myths: Aboriginal Artists in the City. Karsh-Masson Gallery (2000: Ottawa, Ontario); The Dress Show, Leonard and Ellen Bina Art Gallery (2003: Montréal, Quebec); Super Phat Nish, Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba (2006: Brandon, Manitoba); 50 Years of Pow wow, Castle Gallery (2006: New Rochelle, New York); Playing Tricks, American Indian Community House Gallery (2006: New York, New York); Home/land and Security, Render Art Gallery (2009: Waterloo, Ontario); Meditations on Memory – A Metaphysical Dance. Alcove Gallery (2010: Ottawa International Airport, Ottawa, Ontario);“m∂ntu’c – little spirits, little powers” Nordamerika Native Museum (2010: Zurich, Switzerland); Changing Hands 3 – Art Without Reservations (2012 -2014: Museum of Art and Design: New York, New York); and Native Fashion Now: North American Native Style (2016 – 2017: Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts); Anishinaabeg Art and Power, Royal Ontario Museum (2017: Toronto, Ontario); Every. Now. Then. Reframing Nationhood, Art Gallery of Ontario (2017: Toronto, Ontario); 2017 Canadian Biennial, National Gallery of Canada (2017: Ottawa, Ontario); We’ll All Become Stories, Ottawa Art Gallery (2018: Ottawa, Ontario); URL : IRL, Dunlop Art Gallery (2018: Regina, Saskatchewan); Public Disturbance: Politics and Protest in Contemporary Indigenous Art from Canada, Supermarket 2018 (2018: Stockholm, Sweden); Coalesce, Robert Langen Gallery (2019: Waterloo, Ontario); Carbon and Light: Juan Geuer’s Luminous Precision, Ottawa Art Gallery (2019: Ottawa, Ontario); Wrapped In Culture, Ottawa Art Gallery (2019: Ottawa, Ontario); Body of Waters, Idea Exchange (2019: Cambridge, Ontario); Abadakone, National Gallery of Canada (2019: Ottawa, Ontario); mazinigwaaso / to bead something, Faculty of Fine Art Gallery Concordia University (2019: Montreal, Quebec); To Be Continued: Troubling the Queer Archive, Carleton University Art Gallery (2020: Ottawa, Ontario); Art of Indigenous Fibers, SWAIA (2021: Santa Fe, New Mexico); Environmental Injustice – Indigenous Peoples’ Alternatives, Musée d’ethnographie de Genève (2021: Geneva, Switzerland); and Material Matters – Materiality of Anishinaabeg-biimadiziwin. Central Art Garage (2021: Ottawa, Ontario).

His work can be found in numerous public and private collections in Canada and abroad, including the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa, Ontario); Canadian Museum of History (Gatineau, Québec); Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto, Ontario); Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto, Ontario); Government of Ontario Art Collection (Toronto, Ontario); City of Ottawa (Ottawa, Ontario); Ottawa Art Gallery (Ottawa, Ontario); Woodland Cultural Centre (Brantford, Ontario); Canada Council Art Bank (Ottawa, Ontario); North American Native Museum (Zurich, Switzerland); Ojibwe Cultural Foundation (M’Chigeeng, Ontario); Global Affairs Canada (Ottawa, Ontario); TD Bank Art Collection (Toronto, Ontario); Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (Gatineau, Québec); Carleton University Art Gallery (Ottawa, Ontario); and Westerkirk Works of Art (Toronto, Ontario).

Barry is the recipient of the KM Hunter Visual Artist Award for 2015. This award is administered by the Ontario Arts Foundation. Barry’s contribution to contemporary art in Canada is noted in the Art Institute of Canada’s Glossary of Canadian Art History.

CURRICULUM (Downloadable PDF)

Also visit Ace’s Artist Page Central Art Garage’s main website.