June 19, 2008

Monkman's take on Pygmalion

An explication of the painting below:  Monkman's "Si je t’aime prends garde à toi," 2007. From Mischief Maker:  Kent Monkman Revisits History:Monkman takes French artist Jean-Léon Gérôme’s illustration of the Pygmalion myth, in which an artist falls in love with his creation, and gives it some sexual and cultural twists. A white artist, his studio decorated with native artifacts, swoons over the brave who is coming to life with a kiss. The hovering cupid crosses European imagery with a raven-headed First Nations trickster figure.

For the sculpture, Monkman replicates the tremendously popular 1915 work The End of the Trail by American artist James Fraser. Like Kane and Catlin, Fraser sympathized with the plight of First Nations peoples while simultaneously relegating them to premature extinction.
Comment:  So the white artist breathes life into the Indian image--literally. On the one hand, she's taken a genuine interest in Indian culture, as evidenced by the objects in her studio. On the other hand, she's perpetuating the romantic view of Indians held by outsiders like herself.

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