Artist Kent Monkman talks about his latest installation, Scent of a Beaver, in the Institute for the Humanities gallery through Feb. 26.
About Scent of a Beaver:
Based on the rococo masterpiece The Swing by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Scent of a Beaver is a sculptural installation that features the artist Kent Monkman’s alter ego Miss Chief Eagle Testickle dangling on a swing between a French and English general. With Miss Chief dressed in an opulent silk and fur gown, the work functions as a metaphor for the power relationships between the major players that shaped the social fabric, political structures, and economy of North America. True to Monkman’s modus operandi, Scent of a Beaver takes on white-washed, colonialist notions of history and overturns them, employing kitsch as a path toward self-determination and veering away from painful, misrepresented histories. It is this sort of conversion that is at the crux of Monkman’s powerful work—the transformation from age-old traditional stories which distort and oppress into something a little fantastical, a bit cathartic, and ultimately redeeming.
About the artist:
Kent Monkman is well known for his provocative reinterpretations of romantic North American landscapes. He explores themes of colonization, sexuality, loss, and resilience—the complexities of historic and contemporary Native American experience—in a variety of mediums including painting, film and video, performance, and installation.
Monkman’s glamorous diva alter-ego Miss Chief appears in much of his work as an agent provocateur, trickster, and supernatural being who reverses the colonial gaze, upending received notions of history and indigenous people. With Miss Chief at center stage, Monkman has created memorable site-specific performances at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, Compton Verney, and most recently at the Denver Art Museum. His award-winning short film and video works have been screened at various national and international festivals, including the 2007 and 2008 Berlinale, and the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival.
Monkman has been awarded the Egale Leadership Award, the Indspire Award, and the Hnatyshyn Foundation Visual Arts Award. His work has been exhibited internationally and is widely represented in the collections of major museums in Canada and the US. He is represented by Pierre-François Ouellette Art Contemporain in Montreal and Toronto, and Trépanier Baer in Calgary.