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Kent Monkman in art studio

Indigenous artist Kent Monkman named to Order of Canada

Jul 7, 2023

Kent MonkmanIndigenous artist Kent Monkman, a 1986 graduate of Sheridan’s Illustration program, was named a Member of the Order of Canada by Governor General Mary Simon in her list of appointments announced on June 28.

He is among the 85 new appointees to the Order of Canada, one of the country’s highest civilian honours that recognizes people who make extraordinary contributions to the nation. A member of the Fisher River Cree Nation in Manitoba and of mixed Cree and Irish heritage, Monkman is renowned for his monumental paintings, films and installations which offer provocative critiques of Canada’s history and the way it has been recorded.

Through his art, Monkman explores themes of colonization, sexuality, loss, and resilience. Despite the somber topics he addresses, Monkman injects humour into his work, making it accessible to both art lovers and appreciators. “Humour disarms people. They are then open to receiving other messages that are more serious,” he said in a 2016 interview to Sheridan.

“I didn’t want to create just a pretty picture hanging on a wall. I wanted to deal with themes that I felt were important - how First Nations people have been portrayed in terms of art history, the impact of colonialism, and the church.”

In 2014, Monkman received the Indspire Award — the highest honour the Indigenous community bestows upon its achievers. He has also been awarded the Hnatyshyn Foundation Visual Arts Award, the Bonham Centre Award, an honorary doctorate degree from OCAD University, and the Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.

He has exhibited at national and international galleries, including the Royal Ontario Museum, the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Smithsonian’s National Museum, the Musée des Beaux-Arts, the Musée d’Art Contemporain, and the Palais de Tokyo. He was the inaugural artist to participate in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s series of contemporary works and his paintings, unveiled in December 2019, were installed on either side of the museum’s main entrance in the Met’s Great Hall. The New York Times called his work ‘stupendous,’ and characterized Monkman’s gender-fluid alter ego Miss Chief as “an avatar of a global future that will see humankind moving beyond the wars of identity – racial, sexual, political – in which it is now perilously immersed.”

Monkman’s award-winning short film and video works have been screened at various international festivals including the 2007 and 2008 Berlinale and the 2007 and 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. The Ottawa Citizen has called Monkman’s work, “dexterous in its execution, both accessible and profound, both funny and sad... is there a more compelling artist in Canada today?"

Sheridan graduates who have received the Order of Canada in previous years include award-winning children’s author and illustrator Jon Klassen (Animation ’05), who was appointed in 2018, and Brenda Clark, a 1977 alumna of Sheridan’s Illustration program who’s best known as the illustrator behind the beloved Franklin the Turtle books, in 2015.

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