The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax is home to a new work by the acclaimed Cree artist Kent Monkman: Miss Chief’s Wet Dream. His first work with a maritime theme, it is also his largest painting to date, measuring 7.5 by 3.5 metres. It is a gift from the Donald R. Sobey Foundation.
Based on two famous paintings of French Romanticism, Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa and Delacroix’s Christ on the Sea of Galilee, Monkman’s painting reimagines first contact in an erotic dream by his trickster character Miss Chief Eagle Testickle. The raft holds figures representing European history and culture: Queen Victoria, Marie Antoinette, a conquistador, a puritan, Liberty, a priest and even Christ taken from the Cross. European power and religion, the combination of which have done such damage to North and South American First Nations, is here presented as diseased and starving. A canoe filled with powerful figures representing First Nations from what is now Canada has encountered this raft, with some figures welcoming, some indifferent, and others violently opposed to any contact. Amidst it all, Miss Chief lies dreaming.
Miss Chief’s Wet Dream is a challenging painting for challenging times. An indictment of European hegemony and of our shameful past with First nations, it is also an opportunity for discussion and reconciliation. It will be on view at AGNS until Nov. 11, and will be permanently installed in the gallery’s newly expanded First Nations Galleries in May, 2019.