Zagime Anishinabek, b. 1977
Little Red Dots, 2017
Digital slide show 0.40″
Collection of Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec
Simply viewed, the works by Mike Patten appear as common forms—a baseball bat and a headdress. Upon examination, it can be noted that the artist embeds deeper meanings, often referencing violence against Indigenous people both historically and in contemporary times. In Native Beating #1 (2011), Patten has taken a baseball bat and covered it in red and white seed beads. The red beads hover only at the barrel end of the bat, illustrating the appearance of blood, indicating that this bat, intended for play and sport, was utilized as a weapon in a moment of violence. Upon closer examination it is evident that the red beads are in the shape of Canada. In the 2018 work Untitled (Headdress), Patten modifies the iconic image of a feathered headdress by mounting it on a pole and drenching it in white acrylic paint. The thick texture of the paint weighs down the feathers, with the excess dripping off the headdress into a puddle on the floor. Patten comments on the whitewashing and commodification of Indigenous cultures, as well as the excess that American and Canadian capitalistic societies perpetuate.
Michael Patten is a contemporary visual artist based in Montreal and a member of the Zagime Anishinabek First Nation in Saskatchewan. He holds a BFA in painting and a BFA in drawing with a minor in art history from the University of Regina and has participated in solo and group exhibitions internationally and nationally in museums, artist-run centers, commercial spaces, and university galleries. In 2017, he was one of the Laureates for the Hnatyshyn Foundation’s REVEAL Indigenous Art Awards. Patten is presently the director of the Contemporary Native Art Biennial in Montreal, a nonprofit organization with a mandate to recognize and support contemporary Indigenous art and artists.