Kent Monkman at the McCord Museum: the correct canadian history, one canvas at a time

Kent Monkman au Musée McCord: corriger l’histoire canadienne, une toile à la fois

Photo: Valérian Mazataud The Duty
Kent Monkman in front of the painting “Seeing Red” (See red) during the presentation of her exhibition “Shame and prejudice: a story of resilience” at the McCord Museum on Tuesday.

In 1883, Robert Harris, painted at the request of the government of canada on the portrait of the fathers of the Confederation, about thirty men — white and for the most part shaggy — in front of which is located, for a reason that we cannot explain, a small bench empty. In his biting reinterpretation of the painting mythical, Kent Monkman, a position on the small bench empty of none other than Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, his alter ego, two-spirited, whose name happens to translation, rebellious avatar, allowing the canadian artist of cree ancestry to travel in time and correct of violent injustice (or, at least, to go yards by character interposed those who are responsible). Offered in all its nakedness to the eyes of men, the unflappable leader of the oppressed crystallizes suddenly the pain and the courageous refusal to disappear from history canadian official has returned to its margin, they are women, indigenous or marginal.

“I put it there to bring the voices of all those who have not been heard during the founding of Canada “, explained in English Kent Monkman Tuesday morning at the McCord Museum, during a guided tour of Shame and prejudice : a story of resilience, created by 2017 at the invitation of the art Museum of the University of Toronto in order to infiltrate the big story that was about to celebrate the country during its 150th anniversary.

I couldn’t think of any history painting that expresses the aboriginal experience or who would enter into the canon of art history

— Kent Monkman

Often playful, even fun, the exhibition presented exclusively in québec from February 8 to may 5, conveys the tragedy. It is by browsing through the corridors of the Prado of Madrid, in front of a work by the Spanish painter Antonio Gisbert, Execution of Torrijos and his companions on the beaches of Malaga (1887-1888), the member of the Fisher River cree nation in Manitoba decides to put his hand, and reread through the lens of aboriginal, the major subjects of some of the great masters of european painting.

“I couldn’t think of any history painting that expresses the aboriginal experience or who would enter into the canon of art history “, he recalls in the foreword of the booklet Excerpts of the memoirs of Miss Chief Eagle Testickle,who accompanies the exhibition. “Where were the tables of the Nineteenth century, which told, with passion and empathy, dispossession, malnutrition, incarceration and genocide of the Aboriginal people ? “

Inspired by the massacre of The Innocents, the theme of several paintings by Rubens depicting the murder of jewish children by king Herod, as recounted by Matthew in his gospel, Kent Monkman, sign a few paintings revolting, The cry, the stage of separation of a hyper-realism upsetting in which men in cassocks, nuns and police officers from the RCMP tear children from the arms of their mother. The paternal grandmother of Kent Monkman, Elizabeth, had survived the indian residential school in Brandon.

To the left and to the right of the giant table : a few baby carriers hanging on the wall, but also the outline drawn in chalk, as it traces the contour of the body of a corpse on a crime scene, several baby ghosts. “These baby carriers absent, what are all these children who are not income of the school. “Silence among the representatives of the media, which raise for a moment the nose of their phone.

The universe of the painter Kent Monkman images

The indian face unique

Child, Kent Monkman could be difficult to explain to his friends the gap between the majesty of the dioramas of figures aboriginal “frozen in time” seen at the Manitoba Museum on school outings and destitute fellow-countrymen at bay, wandering in the streets of Winnipeg.

“I did not understand as to why the indigenous peoples were part of the museums of natural history in New York city. The primates ? It is from this side ! The First Nations ? It is on the other side ! ” mocked it in front of his version of the infamous trasha scene of the nativity, filed in the decoration of the third world of a reservation. Strange : all the characters of this installation share the facies of the artist. “This is because in the natural history museums, all Aboriginal people have the same face ! They have moulded the face of a single man, who represents all nations native american, man or woman, which says a lot about how that has had a history of crushing and reducing to little the aboriginal experience. “

Explosion view on life the past and present of canada’s First Nations, Shame and prejudice : a story of resilience shines a bright light and compassionate on the aboriginal overrepresentation in prisons and among the homeless, the epidemic of suicides in the reserves as well as on the devastation caused by the Church with the endorsement of the State. And if the tone, from the strictly pictorial, there is often the tribute, as in this reinterpretation of the Death of the Virgin by Caravaggio, in which a young woman murdered occupies the bed of Mary, the admiration of Monkman for the highly skilled technique of those whose paintings inhabit the manuals of art history, turns in the end of the route to the virulent criticism of Picasso and his misogyny history.

What place, according to Kent Monkman, should be reserved in the museums of the world to works which are hardly defensible from a moral point of view ?

“Take George Catlin [american painter of the Nineteenth century, famous for his representation of aboriginal peoples]. I am fascinated by his work, but I also think that his work is problematic, because his point of view is strictly that of the colonizing european. It has eliminated the portrait all that bothered. I think that the best strategy to adopt, it is to feed a dialogue with these works, because we can not, and this is not desirable, the clear. It is necessary to multiply the opportunities for these works enter into conversation with the present, and what we know today about the past. “

The winter Monkman

In addition to housing at the McCord Museum until 5 may, the work of Kent Monkman is investing as early as 7 February, the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, thanks to its Theatre of crystal, glittering tipi made up of 350 glass beads offered to the institution in memory of the curious marriage she presided over in September 2017 between the couturier Jean Paul Gaultier and Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, in the exhibition Love is Love : marriage for all, according to Jean Paul Gaultier. The work of Kent Monkman, will also be shown at the gallery Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain as early as 14 march.