Sharon Mizota. “Ken Gonzales-Day Re-Examines Violence, Race, and Identity.”
ArtBound, KCET.org, 29 Nov. 2012, Los Angeles.
“Artist Ken Gonzales-Day was researching early photographic images of Latinos in California when he came across a portrait that propelled his work in a whole new direction. “I turned it over, and on the back somebody had written, ‘Last man hanged in California,'” he recalled, “And at that point I realized I didn’t know what that meant. Did that mean legally executed? Did that mean vigilante committee? Did that mean lynch mob?”
There were no books on the subject, so Gonzales-Day began combing through archives throughout the state. He found over 350 documented cases of lynchings in California. But unlike their Southern, African American counterparts, the victims of this violence were largely Latino. What’s more, California lynchings had been consistently neglected by historians and scholars.
Gonzales-Day ended up writing his own book, Lynching in the West, and developed three intertwined photographic series. In “Erased Lynchings,” he digitally removed the victims’ bodies from period photographs of lynchings to turn the viewer’s attention to the perpetrators and spectators gathered below. In the series, “Hang Trees,” seemingly pastoral landscapes conceal a darker history: they are the present-day sites where the hangings took place…”