September 2021


Why I went to Toronto: Kent Monkman and the Casualties of Modernity.


Certificate of Mischief on right; Navajo rug on left.

It’s taken me awhile to finish up writing about my around the world trip, but this one dragged out because I was waiting for my local framer to finish framing my Certificate of Mischief.

You might recall (or not, because I don’t think many people are reading my blog) that last summer I had a long weekend in Montreal, where I found and fell in love with Kent Monkman, a Canadian artist who paints wonderful paintings that makes wonderful commentary on history and how it is interpreted.

I would love to own a piece of art by Kent Monkman, but I do not have enough money to do so – so I bought his Certificate of Mischief, which is now framed and on my living room wall, on what has become, accidentally, my native peoples art wall. It’s right next to a Navajo rug that I bought in New Mexico and under a drum I bought in Alaska, so it’s in good company.

The certificate was shipped to somebody in Toronto, who held it for me, until I could get there to see Kent Monkman’s major installation work, Casualties of Modernity. The work is on display at the Bank of Montreal headquarters, which, despite its name, appear to be predominately in Toronto. To see it, one must make a reservation.

Which I did – in fact, Casualties of Modernity became the icing on my around the world tour cake – what made the trip go from being super awesome to being super-duper awesome.

In this installation piece, which involves watching a video and examining the room where the piece is installed, Kent Monkman provides some powerful commentary on the state of art today – and where it is going and where it is coming from. The video part was hilarious as it made some deep points.

What amazes me about Kent Monkman and his work is how it connects to me. It’s pretty clear that I am not frequently, seriously, involved in art. While I enjoy looking at it, I am not one who can dissect it easily, nor do I have, generally speaking, “favorite” artists. Yet within seconds of seeing Trappers of Men at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, I had jotted down his name for future reference. Then when I saw “Welcome to the Studio: An Allegory for Artistic Reflection and Transformation, 2014” at the otherwise completely unremarkable Musée McCord d’Histoire Canadienne, I tracked down a copy of a catalogue of his work. Then I floated away with happiness when I stumbled into The Night of September 12, 1759 at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal.

His work resonates with me in a way that I cannot easily explain and he is the only artist (outside of my personal friends) who is, for me, a destination artist.

I will go out of my way to see his work, in other words.

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