The Toronto-based Cree artist Kent Monkman has apologised for a recent painting that critics say depicts sexual assault perpetrated against the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The painting shows a council of Indigenous women with Miss Chief Eagle Testickle—a supernatural, gender-fluid figure that often appears in Monkman’s work—at the centre, while Trudeau, who is shown nude from the waist down and on all fours, prepares for “not a punishment but a consensual act that Miss Chief willingly delivers” with a large red hand, the artist wrote in a statement. A Canadian “Mountie” police officer can be seen similarly exposed on the floor.
Monkman shared images of the work on his social media, writing in the caption that the work highlights the problems of the “Canadian (in)justice system”. The intent behind the composition, according to the artist, was to address the victimisation of Indigenous women, who experience violence and sexual assault more than triple that of non-Indigenous women in Canada and in the US.
Some viewers, however, suggested in their comments on the image that Monkman was valorising violence rather than critiquing it.
In a written apology shared on social media and on his website, Monkman acknowledges that “elements included to indicate consent” in the painting were “not prominent enough”. He adds, “Regardless of my intentions, some were harmed while viewing” the work.