The Cree leading the People: Mistikôkosiwak

The Metropolitan Museum, NY has given its first commission to a Native American in the 150 years of its existence to the Cree painter, Kent Monkman, born 1965.  

 

Two large paintings are hanging above head level in the entrance hallway of the museum.

Both paintings incorporate references to paintings and sculptures, North American and European, which belong to the Met.

The painting which comes most readily to mind, compositionally, is Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1851: an image associated with the beginning of armed revolutionary success.

The words in inverted commas below are from the website of the Met. 

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“The commission’s primary title, mistikôsiwak, derives from a Cree word meaning “wooden boat people.” It originally applied to French settlers, but Monkman uses it to refer to all the Europeans who colonized the so-called “New World.”

The left painting of the diptych, Welcoming the Newcomers, dramatically recreates their arrival, as they brought with them institutions of religion and slavery. The Native inhabitants display a range of responses toward the newcomers…..”

 

 

 

Welcoming the Newcomers

 

 

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Welcoming the Newcomers, 2019 acrylic on canvas. 

 

 

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 Welcoming the Newcomers, 2019 acrylic on canvas. 

Kent Monkman, Cree, born 1965.  Courtesy of the artist from the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art NY

 

 

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 Detail of Welcoming the Newcomers, 2019 acrylic on canvas. 

 

 

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Detail of Welcoming the Newcomers, 2019 acrylic on canvas. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Washington crossing the Delaware, 1851, oil on canvas, and details.  Emmanuel Leutze, 1816-1868, German American.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 

 

 

 

…”Resurgence of the People, the second painting, is a testament to, and celebration of, Indigenous resiliency over time, particularly in the face of pernicious and persistent colonizing forces, both political and cultural…..”

 

 

 

Resurgence of the People

 

 

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Resurgence of the People, 2019. Acrylic on canvas. 

 

 

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Resurgence of the People, 2019. Acrylic on canvas. 

Kent Monkman, Cree, born 1965.  Courtesy of the artist on the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 

 

 

Prominent in both paintings is the larger-than-life figure of Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, Monkman’s shape-shifting, time-traveling alter ego.”

 

“Miss Chief, whose name plays on the words “mischief” and “egotistical,” is in part an embodiment of the Indigenous Two Spirit tradition, which embraced a third gender and nonbinary sexuality, and ran contrary to constructions of gender and sexuality imposed by European settlers.”

 

“Miss Chief also refers to the Cree trickster figure, who subverts conventional beliefs and wisdom in traditional stories but also often protects and affirms life (as Miss Chief does here in both instances)……”

 

 

 

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Detail of Resurgence of the People, 2019. Acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of the artist on the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 

 

 

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Detail of Resurgence of the People, 2019. Courtesy of the artist on the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 

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Detail of Resurgence of the People, 2019. Courtesy of the artist on the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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