Caroline Monnet (Anishinaabe/French). Kibwàgawingan. 2022. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Blouin Division. Photo © Aurélian Mole
Caroline Monnet (Anishinaabe/French). Kibwàgawingan. 2022. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Blouin Division. Photo © Aurélian Mole

Installation is part of Preoccupied, a major, ongoing initiative to center Native voices and work at the museum

BALTIMORE, MD (April 8, 2024)— On May 12, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) opens Caroline Monnet: River Flows Through Bent Trees, a new, site-specific installation commissioned by the museum. Monnet (Anishinaabe/French) is a multidisciplinary artist from Outaouais, Quebec, whose work investigates cultural histories as a means of understanding contemporary Indigenous identity and bicultural existence. For her BMA commission, Monnet has created a room-sized installation in the museum’s contemporary wing inspired by eel trap pots made by Patawomeck people of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, as well as traditional Anishinaabe residential dwellings. River Flows Through Bent Trees is on view through December 1, 2024.

“Caroline Monnet has a singular, clear voice in articulating Indigenous ingenuity since time immemorial,” said co-curators Dare Turner (Yurok Tribe) and Leila Grothe reflect. “Her installation, which occupies the full scale of a gallery and immerses the viewer within it, celebrates Indigenous innovations, customs, and lifeways and makes them resonant for audiences today.”

Monnet’s work often blends traditional and modernist visual vocabularies to illuminate complex ideas about personal and communal experience. Throughout her practice, she has explored the use of industrial building materials and engaged with traditional Anishinaabe architecture, bringing seemingly disparate cultural practices into dialogue. When Monnet began conceptualizing River Flows Through Bent Trees, she knew she wanted to engage with Indigenous communities of the Baltimore area. She consulted with Dr. D. Brad Hatch (Patawomeck Indian Tribe; b. 1985), who is actively working to help revitalize Indigenous weaving and fishing practices from the region. He is among the few regional Native community leaders with the knowledge to teach the specific technique to make this kind of eel trap pot, which entails identifying and felling a white oak tree, then weaving together strips of its sapwood to produce a funnel that the eel cannot escape.

To create her installation, Monnet interwove inspiration from the form and material of eel traps along with traditional Anishinaabe residential dwellings called wigwams. She equally incorporated her familiarity with contemporary building techniques through her use of materials. Using hardwood and polyethylene commonly found on construction sites, Monnet fabricated a life-sized structure that embraces these forms rooted in Indigenous history, while also interpreting them through materials and aesthetic expressions that are distinctly contemporary.

The exhibition is part of an expansive initiative at the BMA titled Preoccupied: Indigenizing the Museum, that significantly enhances the presence of Native voices, experiences, and works across the museum. Unfolding over the course of 10 months, Preoccupied includes nine solo and thematic exhibitions, interpretative interventions across the museum’s collection galleries, the development of a publication guided by Native methodologies, and a broad array of public programs. It represents an exceptionally expansive museum presentation of Native artists and thinkers, with nearly 100 individuals contributing to and represented across the initiative.

About Caroline Monnet

Caroline Monnet’s multidisciplinary practice embraces sculpture, mixed media installations, and film, as she grapples with outmoded ways of thinking informed by colonialism by elevating the traditions, ingenuity, and worldviews of Indigenous communities and cultures. Her visual art has been featured in a wide range of exhibitions, including at the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), KØS museum (Copenhagen), Museum of Contemporary Art (Montréal), Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and National Art Gallery (Ottawa), and Schirn Kunsthalle (Frankfurt), among others. Monnet’s films have also been included at such significant festivals as the Toronto International Film Festival, Sundance, and Palm Springs International Film Festival. She is the recipient of the 2020 Pierre-Ayot award, the Sundance Institute’s Merata Mita Fellowship, and was recently named Compagne des arts et des lettres du Québec. Monnet studied Sociology and Communication at the University of Ottawa (Canada) and the University of Granada (Spain) before pursuing a career in the arts. She lives and works in Montréal.

About the Baltimore Museum of Art

Founded in 1914, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) inspires people of all ages and backgrounds through exhibitions, programs, and collections that tell an expansive story of art—challenging long-held narratives and embracing new voices. Our outstanding collection of more than 97,000 objects spans many eras and cultures and includes the world’s largest public holding of works by Henri Matisse; one of the nation’s finest collections of prints, drawings, and photographs; and a rapidly growing number of works by contemporary artists of diverse backgrounds. The museum is also distinguished by a neoclassical building designed by American architect John Russell Pope and two beautifully landscaped gardens featuring an array of modern and contemporary sculpture. The BMA is located three miles north of the Inner Harbor, adjacent to the main campus of Johns Hopkins University, and has a community branch at Lexington Market. General admission is free so that everyone can enjoy the power of art.

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