This weekend marks the end of Kent Monkman's critically acclaimed solo show Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience at the University of Toronto Art Gallery. It's heading west to Calgary to the Glenbow Museum slated to launch in June with subsequent dates booked all the way into 2020. If you haven't seen it already you need to see it. His work is a remarkable exploration of Canadian identity through a post-colonial lens that celebrates and challenges alternative histories and indigenous identities.
But did you know that we've been fans of Monkman's work for a while now? Last summer's ISSUE 13 featured his sculpture: Bull in a China Shop on our front cover. In the editor's note Tammy explained her choice for including his piece:
When I first saw this piece, Bull in a China Shop (2013) - a hand painted earthenware saddle-with-handlebars that reimagines Picassos famous Bull's Head (1942) - I thought it was a thing of beauty.
Kent Monkman is a historic revisionary, viewing the past through the critical lens of a queer first Nations artist with a two-spirited dandy alter ego called Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, or Mich Chief for short. Monkman uses western concepts of sexuality to explore oppression inherent in dominant ideologies and hierarchies. He subverts the so-called Western gaze using mimicry.
He's long been interested in the idea of and etymology of the "dandy" and what it meant to Aboriginal culture, and has incorporated his finding into his work. Monkman's research into the dandy found references to two-spiritis Aboriginal dandy or berdache - individuals who did not fit gender norms, usually womanly men or men who dressed in 'womanly' clothes - largely documented by painter and ethnographer George Catlin. In Catlin's documentation, and Monkan's retelling, the dance of the berdache was a ritual in which the two-spirited leader of the tribe was worshipped and celebrated. Two-spirit has replace berdache and gender fluidity now has been recognised as being a part of First Nations cultures for venturing.
Just as two-spiritedness has long been celebrated in First Nations cultures, we at dandyhorse also are proud to celebrate the dandy in us all.
If that's not reason enough to check out his work then I don't know what is?