Too Cool Queenie

too cool queenie36″ x 48″, Acrylic on canvas, 2004      (Collection of the Artist)

Some viewers are not sure what to make of “Too Cool Queenie” either. It is a bizarre fusion of traditional tribal and contemporary urban imagery that is more than a little puzzling. Riel’s explanation is revealing. The title is taken from another song by the “Stone Temple Pilots” on their CD “Shangri-La Dee Da”(2001), while the artwork for their CD “Tiny Music…Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop” (1996) has been appropriated and radically refashioned for a hip young Indian audience. The theme of the painting is a slice of modern day tribal youth culture seldom reflected in contemporary Indian art. It marks the time Riel was snubbed by a beautiful pow wow dancer who considered him unworthy of inclusion in her social circle. The daughter of a wealthy tribal chief, she is pictured here skinny dipping in the family pool, while off to one side The Best Man urinates into the pool from a fishing boat to register his disgust at both the personal slight and material inequity. In this painting, mutual immaturity is captured in a surreal and beautifully rendered moment. – ALLAN J. RYAN, Riel Benn’s “Best Man”: An Unlikely Successor to Iktomi’s Trickster Legacy. AMERICAN INDIAN ART MAGAZINE, SPRING 2010