At first glance, Miss Chief’s Wallflowers appears to portray the usual mundane images of frontiersmen in canoes, on horseback, and interacting with Indians. On closer inspection, much of what is represented is quite the opposite. In addition to the expected activities, a number of the men are engaged in a variety of sexual encounters. Of course, here and there, Miss Chief makes an appearance, wearing assortment of outlandish and incongruous costumes. Although she is glamorous, her insertion into what is usually presented as a masculine and rather nonsexual (except for marriage) environment evokes a comical tone. Miss Chief is certainly no wallflower; she is quite the opposite. The title of the piece suggests the secretive nature of sex during the westward expansion of the United States and Canada during the 1800s. In addition, the artist implies that he sees each image, graphic as it may be, as a flower meant to be seen on a wall, not something pornographic and meant to be hidden away. No one before Kent Monkman has imagined life on the frontier quite this way, certainly not Hollywood nor the artists of the 19th century. Adding to the piece’s humor and mitigating its shock value is the fact that the scenes depicted are on wallpaper that is twelve feet long and two feet wide. Having a room decorated with this material would be, at the very least, quite a conversation piece. As an artist, Kent Monkman is using every means at his disposal to upend traditional views of the colonial history of Canada and the United States.
Artwork: Kent Monkman, Miss Chief’s Wallflowers, 2017.
Self adhesive vinyl wallpaper
366 cm x 61 cm (144” x 24”)
Photo © Peters Projects, Santa Fe.
Excerpt from E.J. GUARINO, « PROVOCATEUR: The Graphic Art of Kent Monkman », King Galleries, February 1st, 2018.
This wallpaper can be purchased on the artist’s website: www.kentmonkman.com