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The Noble Savage Was a Drag Queen: Hybridity and Transformation in Kent Monkman's Performance and ... - page 16 / 19

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In this series, Monkman inserts himself in the role of Share, a decision that will

later allow him to give life to his alter-ego off-canvas. Monkman writes that by inserting

himself in the series, he "relate[s] the importance of this historical event to [his] own

identity as a Native person".29 In his decision to create Share in his own image, the artist

blatantly references his own sexuality as a site of power. Share and her overt sexuality

are always the focus of each work, with a blunt refusal to play second fiddle or to be

upstaged by even her own lover's death. Minh-ha writes that "the return to a denied

heritage allows one to start again with different re-departures, different pauses, different

arrivals."30 By making himself the subject of his intervention on 19th-century colonial

art, Monkman is effectively creating a place for himself, a place that previously did not

exist, in the history books. Putting himself in his works also serves the purpose of overtly

mocking "the self-aggrandisement of the original artists like George Catlin, who would

occasionally place themselves in their work."31 The "Eagle Testickle" in our hero/ine's

name is also a play on the egotism of the 19th-century artists who saw fit to create the

mythologized

Native

image

for

world

consumption.

Monkman's

challenge

to

the

subjectivity of ego-driven colonial artists is most obvious in an earlier painting, Artist and

Model. In this piece, Share paints a petroglyph-style image of her handsome white

hostage, whom she has tied to a tree. Share's image looks nothing like her subject, yet

she appears swooning, her back arched with pride over her work. Below her easel is a

Louis Vuitton quiver or paint brush holder, a symbol of the commodification of both the

original paintings and their Native subjects. In claiming a modern symbol of wealth,

status, and luxury, Share reaffirms her power and further identifies herself with both the

29

Ibid.

30

Minh-ha, 1991:14.

31

Monkman, Trilogy of St. Thomas: 2004.

16

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