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Kent Monkman triumphs 

The Toronto-based Cree artist creates reversed colonial fairy tales with fun, sexual undertones.

The saloon music that plays from video installations as you enter Kent Monkman's exhibition is deceiving---the collection of his work from 2003 to today betrays anything you'd see in an old western. Romantic, mountainous landscape paintings depict scenes of 19th-century "cowboy and Indian" role reversals, with Aboriginals assuming lead roles and the central figure often appearing as a cross-dressing male; the periodic portraits hanging on the wall are actually of Monkman's scantily clad drag alter ego, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle (pictured above); the performance videos that play are dressed up as old westerns, but in these cases the "Indian" shoots the "cowboy." Toronto-based Monkman is of Cree ancestry, and his work rethinks colonial history in a sexual, fun way while still hitting political sensitivities---his 2007 exhibition, Shapeshifters, Time Travellers, and Storytellers, was banned from the Royal Ontario Museum because it attracted too much negative attention, which Monkman responds to with a filmed drag show of himself that loops in the gallery. Birch bark Louis Vuitton bags are just a hint of Monkman's ironic genius---you have until the end of November to discover the rest on your own.

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Vol 27, No 8
July 18, 2019

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