Arts + Music » Arts + Culture

Kent Monkman triumphs

The Toronto-based Cree artist creates reversed colonial fairy tales with fun, sexual undertones.


The saloon music that plays from video installations as you enter Kent Monkman's exhibition is deceiving---the collection of his work from 2003 to today betrays anything you'd see in an old western. Romantic, mountainous landscape paintings depict scenes of 19th-century "cowboy and Indian" role reversals, with Aboriginals assuming lead roles and the central figure often appearing as a cross-dressing male; the periodic portraits hanging on the wall are actually of Monkman's scantily clad drag alter ego, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle (pictured above); the performance videos that play are dressed up as old westerns, but in these cases the "Indian" shoots the "cowboy." Toronto-based Monkman is of Cree ancestry, and his work rethinks colonial history in a sexual, fun way while still hitting political sensitivities---his 2007 exhibition, Shapeshifters, Time Travellers, and Storytellers, was banned from the Royal Ontario Museum because it attracted too much negative attention, which Monkman responds to with a filmed drag show of himself that loops in the gallery. Birch bark Louis Vuitton bags are just a hint of Monkman's ironic genius---you have until the end of November to discover the rest on your own.

Add a comment

Remember, it's entirely possible to disagree without spiralling into a thread of negativity and personal attacks. We have the right to remove (and you have the right to report) any comments that go against our policy.

xxx - Deprecated in favor of GTM, above.