Unreserved

Kent Monkman puts the Indigenous experience into art history

When artist Kent Monkman was approached to do a project tied to the 150th anniversary of Canada, he jumped at the chance. "I wanted to create a body of work that would be critical of this last 150 years of Canada. Something to counter the celebrations that will be happening this year. I wanted people to reflect on what have the last 150 years meant to Indigenous people."
When artist Kent Monkman was approached to do a project tied to the 150th anniversary of Canada, he jumped at the chance. 0:57

When artist Kent Monkman was approached to do a project tied to the 150th anniversary of Canada, he jumped at the chance.

"I wanted to create a body of work that would be critical of this last 150 years of Canada. Something to counter the celebrations that will be happening this year," he explained. "I wanted people to reflect on what have the last 150 years meant to Indigenous people." 

Monkman's work subverts the style of the paintings of the Old Masters and teases the founding narratives of Confederation. Through this work, the Cree artist and his alter ego, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, are challenging national myths.
(Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)


Monkman's latest exhibit, Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience, runs until March 4th at the University of Toronto Art Centre. 
"At the very root of this was my desire to make paintings that could be history paintings, in a sense. Many of these chapters of Canadian history are not found in our art history. There were no paintings that showed the dispossession of Indigenous people from their land, there were no paintings that showed the incarceration of Poundmaker and Big Bear, there were no paintings that showed the removal of children from our communities," Monkman said.
Kent Monkman's The Daddies, 2016, Acrylic on Canvas. (Kent Monkman)

The exhibit features a mix of original work, as well as dozens of museum objects, artifacts, paintings and drawings he curated from museum collections across the country.

"Because I believe in the power of painting ... I wanted to make paintings that could authorize these important events into Canadian history so that they will exist as monuments, to mark the legacy of what the last 150 years have meant to Canada."


Click the Listen button above to hear Kent Monkman's full conversation with Rosanna Deerchild.