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At the Met, Cree artist Kent Monkman asks visitors to confront North America's murderous past – The Globe and Mail

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The Newcomers, 2019, for The Great Hall Commission: Kent Monkman, mistikosiwak (Wooden Boat People), 2019.

Courtesy of the artis/Anna-Marie Kellen/Metropolitan Museum of Art/Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Cree artist Kent Monkman stood under the soaring ceiling of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Great Hall this week wielding a laser pointer. With its beam, he indicated historical characters on the huge canvas behind him, stopping briefly on the figure of a beaver with an olive branch in its mouth as he decoded his latest painting for the assembled media. Europeans came to this continent seeking beaver pelts, he reminded them.

Toronto-resident Monkman, a member of Manitoba’s Fisher River Band, is one of a trio of international artists given an unusual assignment by America’s pre-eminent museum: The Met has asked them to address its encyclopedic collection by creating new art for its most prominent spaces. So, in the museum’s vast but always bustling front hall, Monkman takes the bull by the horns with a pair of canvases that cleverly appropriate Western history painting to expose romantic myths about Indigenous people. He is asking the Met and its many visitors to confront North America’s murderous colonial history – as Canada tries exporting Indigenous perspectives and the hope of reconciliation to the United States.

Borrowing the heroic poses and dramatic expressions from history paintings in the Met’s collection, Monkman calls his project mistikosiwak (Wooden Boat People), extending the Cree word for the French to include, by implication, all European settlers. The work is a diptych, depicting the arrival of Europeans in North America on the left and the resilience of contemporary Indigenous culture on the right. The first painting features a group of shipwrecked Europeans clambering onto a rocky shore where Indigenous characters variously welcome or repulse them. The second shows a boat paddled by contemporary Indigenous figures while two African-Americans pull white people from the water as though rescuing migrants from the Mediterranean. On a rock in the distance, armed men flash the white-power symbol and wave their guns.

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Kent Monkman, (Canadian, b. 1965). Resurgence of the People, 2019.

Joseph Hartman/Metropolitan Museum of Art/Metropolitan Museum of Art

These paintings, created by a team of 10 painters under Monkman’s direction and based on photo shoots that employed about 40 models and actors, represent the artist’s increasingly sophisticated deployment of a revisionist history painting. As he resurrects the genre once considered the pinnacle of Western art before it was displaced by modernism, he exposes 19th-century history painting’s assumptions about North America as an empty continent ready for exploitation and Indigenous people as a noble but tragically disappearing breed.

”Here is this incredible vocabulary that I felt could be very relevant to speak about Indigenous experience both historical and contemporary,” he said in an interview at the Met this week. “It has been a way for me to engage with a very complex and sophisticated language of image-making and it ties into those themes of erasure that were present in the 19th-century [art]. Those themes have been supported and upheld by museums because they canonized that work.”

But no longer. As Monkman unveiled his paintings in a symbolically charged place – the entry point to the Met’s sprawling, global collection at the heart of a city that is a magnet for both tourists and migrants – Met leaders talked about the need to expand the stories the museum tells.

“Museums can no longer maintain a position of neutrality,” said Sheena Wagstaff, head of the Met’s modern and contemporary art department, as she launched into a rare land acknowledgement: Manhattan is Manahatta and traditional territory of the Lenape or Delaware nation.

As Cree artist Kent Monkman unveiled his paintings in a symbolically charged place, Met leaders talked about the need to expand the stories the museum tells.

Anna-Marie Kellen/Metropolitan Museum of Art/Metropolitan Museum of Art

As part of the current contemporary project, the Met has also mounted four striking female bronze figures by the Kenyan-born artist Wangechi Mutu in niches on the façade of its 1902 Beaux Arts building, the first time art has ever been placed there. The third participant in this program is the Icelandic multidisciplinary artist Ragnar Kjartansson, who mounted an immersive video installation in the courtyard of the museum’s Robert Lehman wing last summer.

Both of Monkman’s paintings in the Great Hall include something of a self-portrait: The central figure of Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, the artist’s gender-fluid trickster alter ego (whose memoir he is currently writing.) In the first painting, she is the one figure who looks directly at you as Monkman turns the tables on viewers of Western art, subjecting them to the Indigenous gaze. In the second painting, she stands at the prow of the boat, her pose directly borrowed from that of George Washington in the Met’s most popular American painting: Emanuel Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware.

Monkman continuously adapts and undercuts these historical antecedents. He takes Eugène Delacroix’s The Natchez, in which the French artist depicted a Natchez couple and their new-born baby as the last of their kind, and purges the painting of its melancholic irony. Monkman’s first painting shows the couple joyfully welcoming new life; in the second, the parents are two women. Similarly, the figure of Mexican Girl Dying, a 19th-century sculpture by the American artist Thomas Crawford, has become a woman who appears to be in the throes of orgasm rather than death. Meanwhile, a group of Indigenous children in the boat was inspired by the biblical subject The Massacre of the Innocents, but their cropped hair is a reference to the residential schools where they were forced to assimilate.

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More than three metres high and almost seven metres wide, the paintings are not Monkman’s largest; that honour still belongs to Miss Chief’s Wet Dream in the collection of the Nova Scotia Art Gallery. But they do represent his most sophisticated work yet. Where once the politics of his interventions might seem obvious – for Canada 150, he simply inserted Miss Chief into a familiar painting of the Fathers of Confederation – here his mastery of the Met’s collection lifts his art. The result is a complex iconography stuffed with references to historic art, Indigenous culture and contemporary politics as Monkman beats Western history painting at its own game.

Initiated by Met curator Randall Griffey, mistikosiwak has developed into a stealthy Canadian attempt to insert Indigenous perspectives deeper into the American cultural consciousness, long dominated by the troubled legacy of slavery.

“In Canada, museums are further ahead in engaging with Indigenous perspectives,” Monkman said. “There’s a huge difference: They are about a generation behind here. It’s a big moment for the Met to offer diversified perspectives.”

That was part of what attracted contributions from Canadian philanthropists Rosamond Ivey, and Marilyn and Charles Baillie, all of whom were already supporters of the Met and helped finance this project.

“It was a huge opportunity for Kent’s career and recognition for Canada’s artistic community,” Ivey said. “And the message is not really Canadian, it’s North American.”

The first of the millions who will see the paintings over the next four months got a look Tuesday as the media took their leave and the Met’s massive front doors opened to the public. The paintings hang immediately overhead at the coat-check queues, so visitors have plenty of time to consider them. Some began debating their merits and pointing out figures to each other from below. Others gazed up in silence, seemingly amazed.

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mistikosiwak (Wooden Boat People) is on show at The Metropolitan Museum in New York until April 9.

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How Kent Monkman works

In 2017, reporter Dakshana Bascaramurty and photojournalist Melissa Tait got an inside look at the process behind Kent Monkman’s work. Watch their video documentary, or click below to read the story.

From the archives: Kent Monkman, the modern touch of a master

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Buffys awards returns to celebrate arts and culture scene of Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo – Fort McMurray Today

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It was a throwback to the golden age of cinema for the 2021 Wood Buffalo Excellence in Arts Awards, known as the Buffys, as the pre-recorded show streamed online on Saturday night.

The Buffys give the local arts community a chance to come together and celebrate their work. This year’s theme was Midnight in Technicolor, and featured performances that ranged from dance, music, comedy, spoken word poetry and theatre.  

The theme was based on the technicolor movement in film, which was known for its bright, bold and saturated colours. Bridging the show were sketches that followed hosts Hue Slider and Nat Valens, played respectively by Timothy Heggie Helen Killorn, and Luma the Technicolor cat, voiced by puppeteer Brandon Folmer.    

The pandemic kept the awards online for a second year, with small viewing parties held around the municipality.  Last year’s Buffys had more than 14,000 unique viewers from streaming and traditional media. Will Collins, communications manager for Arts Council Wood Buffalo (ACWB), believes this year will eclipse that number. 

“It’s a very special event because it brings the entire community together through art,” said Collins. “Typically these artists don’t work together. The Buffys is really a celebration of all these different artists but is also an opportunity for everyone to work together on a collaborative project.” 

The physical awards are also works of art. Created this year by Michelle Ploughman, also known as Saltwater Potter, 14 individualized vases were made for each award category. The design for the awards was inspired by the boreal forest.  

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The awards also honoured the legacy of the late Joey Delusong, a local musician who died in 2015, with a posthumous lifetime achievement award. Known on stage as Joey DDelusong was known across the community for his ability to inspire musicians through his songwriting and performances.

“He just had a really special energy about him that was about bringing people together through a positive attitude,” said Collins. “And he had, for lack of a better term, no shame. He would go up and really have a blast.”  

Other award recipients included Andrew Pottie for Arts Champion, Matthew Lorenz for Media Arts, Amy Keller-Rempp for Indigenous Arts and Theatre; Just Because for Performing Arts. Diya Hiltz, who received the Rising Star award for her musical theatre and classical singing performances, said in the broadcast that there are countless reasons why the arts are important.

“One of the main reasons being art is so unique and different for everyone,” said Hiltz. “No one’s form of art looks the same, no one’s voice sounds the same. I think that’s why it’s so special and can truly inspire individuals to do great things with their lives.” 

Cathy Larson, a music teacher in the Fort McMurray Catholic Schools Division, received the award for Arts Education. Larson said in the broadcast that her students were a big component of her love for music.  

“What I’m inspired by is the students I teach every day,” said Larson. “They inspire me to be the best I can be as a teacher and provide the best environment I can for them.”  

Award recipients:  

Arts Administration: Diane Schuldt-Zundel
Arts Champion: Andrew Pottie
Arts Education: Cathy Larson
Craft: Simon Budd
Creative Collaboration: Land Acknowledgement Video by Wood Buffalo 2023 Arctic Winter Games
Dance: Hanna LeVoir
Indigenous Arts: Amy Keller-Rempp
Lifetime Achievement: Joey Delusong (Joey D)
Literary Arts: NorthWord Magazine
Media Arts: Matthew Lorenz
Music (Ken Flaherty Music Award): Shantelle Davidson
Performing Arts: Theatre; Just Because
Rising Star: Diya Hiltz
Visual Arts: Rob Hickey

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Let's Art Teen returns to Cultural Centre – Energeticcity.ca

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The Let’s Art program received a $2,000 donation from the Rotary Club of Fort St. John last year. The donation covered 100 hours of arts instruction offered at the North Peace Cultural Centre.

Registration is required for the program, which can be done by calling the NPCC at 250-785-1992 or emailing reception@npcc.bc.ca.

The program is also offered for kids aged six to 12, however, the 2021 session took place in March.

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Art Beat: It's Art Crawl weekend – Coast Reporter

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The 2021 Sunshine Coast Art Crawl kicks off Friday, Oct. 22 at 10 a.m., with 164 venues open to visitors until 5 p.m. all three days, through Sunday. And at 10 of those venues (as of press time), Friday evening from 7 to 9 p.m. will also be a time for celebration. Most of the partying is at Gibsons venues, but Redecor + Design (venue #111) on Cowrie Street in Sechelt will also be open, as are Halfmoon Bay venues The Mink Farm Gallery (#146), and Kito Tosetti (#147). Details are at the “Friday Night Parties” link at sunshinecoastartcrawl.com.

Art of Healing

The Sechelt Hospital Foundation’s Art of Healing campaign holds its Gala on Saturday, Oct. 23 at the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden (venue #126). That’s where 36 works donated by some great local artists are on display and will be distributed in an exclusive online raffle draw to 36 ticketholders. All visitors to the exhibit can also bid on auction packages, and purchase raffle tickets for the grand travel prizes, among them a grand prize of a trip for two to Venice or any other European destination.

Sechelt Arts Festival

It’s also the final weekend of the Sechelt Arts Festival, with the premiere of the play, Voices, at Raven’s Cry Theatre. There will be three performances, Friday night, Oct. 22, Saturday night, and a Sunday matinee. The visual art and heritage canoe displays at Seaside Centre become Art Crawl venue #115. Poet Valerie Mason-John speaks in a free event (registration required) at Raven’s Cry on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. And your last chance to add your touch to the Paintillio mural at Trail Bay Centre will also be on Saturday, until 4 p.m. Info and tickets at the festival website.

New writers’ group

The Sunshine Coast Writers and Editors Society is holding its first meeting on Friday, Oct. 22 at 7 p.m., via Zoom. The society’s purpose is “to serve writers, editors and groups on the Sunshine Coast to grow and develop their skills, as well as support other writers’ groups and events in the province and across Canada,” and “to hold events and launch projects to highlight the incredible talent that exists on the Coast.” Contact Cathalynn Cindy Labonte-Smith at 604-724-3534 for a Zoom link.

Meet the author

Writer Jennie Tschoban will be signing copies of her funny and touching memoir, Tales & Lies My Baba Told Me, on Saturday, Oct. 23, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Daffadowndilly Boutique & Gallery, on Marine Drive in Gibsons.

Meet the artists

On Sunday, Oct. 24 starting at 2 p.m., Jennifer Bryant and Jennifer Ireland will talk about their new exhibit, Matters of Scale, on now at the Sunshine Coast Arts Council’s Doris Crowston Gallery in Sechelt.

Live Music

The band Astral Motion bring their blend of originals and classics to Roberts Creek Legion on Friday, Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. On Saturday, Oct. 23 at the Creek Legion, Vancouver acoustic band Farmteam start their sets at 7:30 p.m.

The Locals play the Turf Stage at Tapworks in Gibsons on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. On Wednesday, Oct. 27, Vancouver singer-songwriter Eamon McGrath plays Tapworks at 8 p.m.

At the Gibsons Legion on Saturday, Oct. 23, Poppa Greg and the band kick things off at 7:30 p.m.

At the Clubhouse Restaurant in Pender Harbour, catch Half Cut and the Slackers on Sunday, Oct. 24, from 2 to 5 p.m.

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