Artist Spotlight: Kent Monkman
Kent Monkman channels his perceptions beautifully into grand landscapes that present allegories of a reimagined past. His past has a much happier, if somewhat saucy result. At first his paintings, sculpture, and performance pieces seem played for laughs, almost a tongue-in-cheek Native American minstrel show — with drag. Then you realize you are laughing at work that addresses the white genocide of Native American societies and the destruction of their culture. His point of view changes rapidly from enraged indigenous person to romantic storyteller to huh art drag queen — sometimes all in the same piece of work.
Monkman is an artist of Cree ancestry who works in a variety of media, including painting, film/video, performance, and installation. Monkman has exhibited widely in Canada and is well represented in numerous private and public collections, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
See more of Kent Monkman's huge and amazing output on his website.
10" x 12" — 2002
acrylic on canvas (detail below)
Si Je T’aime Prends Garde à Toi (Study for Icon for a New Empire)
36" x 24" — 2007
acrylic on canvas
Tall Tails is an installation with sound (music) that references Monkman’s performance work. Fashion, as a signifier of cultural change, is a recurring theme Monkman explores in various media. The costume on the mannequin is one of three successively larger and more outlandish headresses worn by Monkman (as Miss Chief) during the performance Séance.
Right-click to download "Dance to Miss Chief (Dwayne Minard Cellout Remix).mp3"
Photo: Walter Willems
Based on similarities found between fictitious American and German buddy characters, Tonto and the Lone Ranger, and Winnetou and Old Shatterhand, this multimedia installation explores male warrior/lover relationships found in the Greek myths of Achilles and Patrocles and Apollo and Hyacinthus.
Monkman has used the Louis Vuitton brand to refer to social hierarchies and monopolies of class, power, and wealth, established by trade among Europeans and Native Americans. Monkman has fashioned faux “Louis Vuitton” birch bark luggage (Boudoir de Berdashe) and an arrow quiver (Shooting Geronimo) that Miss Chief has worn in live performances and films.
Photo: Brian Boyle