Snarky Art Criticism

Young Daniel Boone Junior

[The idea of appropriating Kent Monkman’s transgressive artwork from an 18th & 19th century Canadian Anglo POV into an early American Anglo POV intrigues me. Beginning with Monkman’s Daniel Boone painting, I moved into some other paintings with a snark art crit point of view in mind. Cleaving images has similarities to cleave poetics.]

“Painting was, at the time,
a crucial accompaniment
to the project of convincing
Native people of the supposed
savagery of their ways. Indeed,
even the ability of the white
colonists to render landscapes
and figures so articulately in
pigment was evidence of their
superior sophistication and the
powers they possessed.”
—David Liss, “Kent Monkman:
Miss Chief's Return,” Canadian Art

“Last June, Monkman was invited
to bring Miss Chief Share Eagle
Testickle's Travelling Gallery and
European Male Emporium to
Compton Verney, a museum in
Warwickshire, England, for a
performance in a group show co-
curated by Richard William Hill,
formerly a curator at the Art Gallery
of Ontario. In this project, colonial
roles and gender expectations are
reversed, as white men (actors hired
by the artist) become the subjects
of ethnological study by the cross-
gendered Monkman/Miss Chief, who
arrives at the doors of the museum
splendidly decked out in drag and
on horseback. This is part of a series
of performances Monkman calls
Colonial Art Space Interventions,
the most notorious of which took
place at the McMichael Canadian
Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario,
in August, 2004, and was amusingly
titled Group of Seven Inches.”
—David Liss, “Kent Monkman:

Miss Chief's Return,” Canadian Art

“Developed from the immediately
preceding Prayer Language paintings,
these works are also densely overlaid
with text, in English this time—racist
and violent passages from pulp
westerns and gay porn stories from
the Internet that fetishize Aboriginal
men. For Monkman this combination
takes aim at the Group of Seven's
colonialist chauvinism and its by-now
notorious exclusion of women from
the tight-knit circle. The layering of
image and text is literally reflective
of the complex layering of power,
eroticism, morality and xenophobia
at the root of our Canadian identity.”
—David Liss, “Kent Monkman:
Miss Chief's Return,” Canadian Art

“Taking these notions further, Monkman
developed his current and best-known
work, the series of paintings he refers
to interchangeably as The Moral
Landscape or Eros and Empire. The
works tell a mythological tragic
gay love story, conceived as a
metaphor for the entwined histories
of and relationships between white
settlers and Native people. By
adapting the painterly conventions
of romantic 19th-century landscape
and by (con)fusing fact and fiction,
Monkman is liberated to project his
own stories upon the landscapes
that were the sites of contact and
—David Liss, “Kent Monkman:
Miss Chief's Return,” Canadian Art

“Through the invention of his own
entertaining allegories—mischievously
rich in the blending of fact and fiction,
role reversals, gender- and genre-
bending, ironic stereotypes, humor,
horror and challenges to the accepted
canon—Monkman reinvigorates our
engagement with difficult questions
about who we all are and how we got
here. He reminds us that documented
history is subjective and that large and
significant amounts of it remain untold,
unspoken and obliterated.”
—David Liss, “Kent Monkman:
Miss Chief's Return,” Canadian Art

“It is doubtful that Kent Monkman believes
any of his cajoling will change the dominant
reading of history. However, he makes us
aware of the damaging effects of marginalization
and oppression, and of the multiplicity of stories
and truths that need to be acknowledged and
included in the dialogue. There is a hopeful
aspect to the work. In the lower left corner
of The Impending Storm, Miss Chief Share
Eagle Testickle and a white man with blond
hair have just disembarked from a canoe.
Fleeing the ominous storm clouds that
threaten the journey, they are running off,
away from the central narrative, arm in arm,
—David Liss, “Kent Monkman:
Miss Chief's Return,” Canadian Art

“Prior to colonization, queer identity (known in Native communities as Two-Spirit in honor of the existence of both the male and female spirit in one body) was widely accepted among many different North American tribes, although this fact has been virtually eliminated from historical renderings of the period. Through his humorous and provoking interventions, Monkman reclaims that history and, using Foucault's concept of sexuality as a site of cultural power, insists on the existence and continued survival of queer Native identities.”
—Kerry Swanson, “The Noble Savage Was a Drag Queen: Hybridity and Transformation in Kent Monkman's Performance and Visual Art Interventions,” e-misfĂ©rica

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