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The Noble Savage Was a Drag Queen: Hybridity and Transformation in Kent Monkman's Performance and ... - page 4 / 19





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landscape painters of the early- to mid-20th century, whose paintings mythologized the

Canadian landscape as wild and untouched by human contact. The Group of Seven are

part of the Canadian colonial establishment, and their work is considered to mark the

beginning of "Canadian art," thus obliterating the importance and existence of Native

Canadian artists and their preceding work.

In his challenge on Canada's institutional

"untouchable" artists, Monkman announces his subversive agenda. He challenges not

only the white artists who claimed Canada's landscapes as their own private discoveries,

but also the institutions that have, until very recently, chosen to exclude Native

perspectives in their galleries.

In a recent article profiling Monkman in Canadian Art

Magazine, David Liss explains the significance of choosing the McMichael Gallery and

the Group of Seven as the site of intervention for Share's debut performance:

As the premier home of the art of the Group of Seven, the McMichael is significant in the accepted canon of what constitutes Canadian identity, or

at least one version that is gatekeeper, the McMichael

readily identifiable. exercises a certain

As an institutional power over what is

included Canadian

and what is not. The Group's romanticized depiction of landscape as an unpopulated, undiscovered wilderness is not lost

on Monkman, relationships of

who power

regards history and subjugation. 5






In this performance, Share arrives on the back of a white horse, resplendent in elaborate

headdress, Louis Vuitton and Hudson Bay Company accessories, and cartoonish drag-

queen heels. On her way into the gallery space, she entices two young white men dressed

in loincloths, who become the subjects of her "taxonomy of the European male."

Bringing to mind the work of Mexican mestizo performance artist Guillermo Gomez-

Peña, whose work is heavily infused with humour and a taste for the ironic, Monkman's

5 Liss, David. "Miss Chief's Return." Canadian Art Magazine. Volume 22, Number 3, Fall 2005, p. 82. This is one of the first major pieces written about Monkman's current work, which is quickly gaining popularity in the Toronto and international art scene.


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