The Great Mystery

Kent Monkman, Cree, born 1965



Acrylic on canvas

Overall: 117 1/2 × 91 1/2 in. (298.5 × 232.4 cm)

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth: Purchased through the Miriam H. and S. Sidney Stoneman Acquisition Fund

© Kent Monkman



Place Made: Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Canada, North America


21st century

Object Name


Research Area

Native American


On view


Western abstract expressionists, such as Mark Rothko and Hannes Beckmann, pushed the language of painting to explore the subconscious, the emotional, and the spiritual. For Monkman, the exploration of these themes runs parallel to the meaning of the Cree concept of mamahtâwisiwin, which can be described as a state of being where one connects to the great mystery of the universe.

As Monkman explains about this new body of work, "In these new interventions with the work of abstract expressionists, the similarities to Indigenous worldviews become apparent, but also the significant differences. . . . For hundreds of years, settler cultures have lived in relationship with Indigenous peoples, yet we remain mysterious to each other, our core values too divergent to ever meld. However, in folding the Cree concept of mamahtâwisiwin into Western abstract paintings, I am exploring the commonalities in our understandings of the unknowable."

From the 2023 exhibition Kent Monkman: The Great Mystery, curated by Jami Powell, Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs & Curator of Indigenous Art

Exhibition History

Kent Monkman: The Great Mystery, Lathrop Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, April 8 - December 9, 2023.


The artist, Kent Monkman, Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory; commissioned by the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth, 2023.

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