Ken Gonzales-Day, "“Shonke Mon thi^," Profiled Series, 2014

Smithsonian NPG: Shonke Mon thi^

I photographed the bust of Shonke Mon thi^ in 2014 as a part of my Smithsonian Artist in Residence Fellowship (SARF) which was to seek out and photograph sculptural depictions of Native Americans and others, with a focus on POC histories, at the Smithsonian Institutions. My research focused on the collections of the National Portrait Gallery, The National Museum of Natural History, and the American Art Museum. The project was part of the larger Profiled series, which began at the J Paul Getty Museum and looked at depictions of race and difference in both fine art and scientific museum collections as a way of bringing these often little known histories to light. After photographing the bust of Snoke Mon thi^, the work was then included in a two person exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in 2018. NPG curator, Taina Caragol, guided and worked with me, and also initiated dialogue with the Osage nation. Dr. Steven Pratt, an Osage spiritual leader, was the great grandson of Shonke Mon thi^ and worked closely with us in the 2018 exhibition, and met up with us at the NPG on August 23, 2022 to provide an Osage blessing for the image and the bust. The bust is on loan from the National Museum of Natural History and has not been exhibited for many years. It also recently underwent conservation treatment. The photograph of the bust, is now a part of the museum’s permanent collection and both are on view at the NPG and will remain on view for the next year. Getting Shonke Mon thi^ recognized and included in our national narrative was the intention behind making the work and so having it on view in our nation’s capital, is something of a dream come true for many of us who worked on the project, and most importantly for the Osage Nation. There are many more stories, and much more work to do, including reclaiming his burial site.


20th Century Americans
On view on 3rd Floor
Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
Washington D.C.

August 2022 – August 2023