Gonzales-Day shines light on racial discrimination and violence

Rachael Hamilton ’16Staff Writer

We spend all day with them and yet we never really think about their lives off campus. Professors: what do they do when they’re not in their classrooms and offices?

Professor Ken Gonzales-Day, head of the Art Department and a photography professor at Scripps College, has been busy the past ten years putting together an exhibit that is now currently on display at the Luis de Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles. The exhibit, entitled “Profiled / Hang Trees / Portraits,” is a three-part exhibit that focuses on lynchings of Latino men that occurred in California as well as themes such as racial discrimination and the way that race was and is portrayed in art.

The exhibition received a rave review in the Los Angeles Times in November from art critic Christopher Knight.

The first part of this exhibition, “Profiled,” explore the way race once was perceived through photographs of busts from around the world. Gonzales-Day hopes that this presentation of the busts will provide a sort of “text that us as the viewers can read to understand” more about representation.

Although the work he put into this part of the exhibition has taken place during the past four years and has accumulated into a book, Gonzales-Day views this as a prequel to his “Lynching / Hang Trees” series, since the portraits are taken from busts dating back to the 1850s-60s, whereas “Hang Trees” is focused more on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His thought process was that in order to understand the racial bias towards those who were unjustly being lynched in California, he had to go back to see where these victims and perpetrators came from, which lead him to visit museums in Europe for the sources behind the racial discrimination.

This leads to the second part of his exhibition, “Hang Trees.” “Hang Trees” showcases photographs of lynch trees located around California. These trees were used to hang Latino men (and one woman in 1858), who were accused of murder and stealing and subsequently lynched without trial. The purpose of this exhibit is to reveal past racial violence that is not widely known. According to Gonzales-Day’s research, more Latinos were lynched in California than were persons of any other ethnicity.

Over the course of six years, Gonzales-Day tracked down over 300 lynching sites around California through the use of old newspapers and photographs, which he has also accumulated into a book entitled “Lynching in the West 1850-1935.”

The final part of Gonzales-Day’s exhibition is “Portraits,” where Gonzales-Day brings faces to the victims of a series of unjustified deaths. Gonzales-Day took photographs of people who were of the same race and age as recorded victims of the lynchings, the majority of whom were Latino men between the ages of 18-22.

Through this wide diversity of portraying the idea of racial discrimination and violence towards Latinos as a part of California’s past that needs to be acknowledge allows the viewer realize and take in the multilayer system that is racial discrimination and learn from it and share it with others.

Professor Gonzales-Day’s exhibition will be open until Dec. 8 at the Luis de Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles.

You can also learn more about Professor Gonzales-Day’s work, past projects, and other upcoming exhibitions through his website at www.kengonzalesday.com.