Artist Interview: Ken Gonzales-Day

Episode 3: Connecting the Dots
Profiled, Las Cienegas Projects
March 5, 2011

Can you tell us about the ideas around the exhibition?

The exhibition is called Profiled, and it revolves around issues of thinking about racial formations. It’s looking at Western canons of beauty ranging from the Apollo and the Venus to 19th century and early 20th century attempts to categorize racial differences. All of these are part of the spectrum of racial representations that I’ve been looking at for a number of years, but in this particular project, i’m really dealing with the history of sculptural representation and the legacies that are embedded but unseen in those histories.

How would you define your art practice?

If one were trying to think of how I would define my practice, I think that can be a challenge both for myself and for others. Often my projects are research oriented and tend to take the form of photographs or photographic installations. But I’ve also done work dealing with appropriated images. I’ve done sculpture and drawing and even painting, but I’m most known and have been working as a photographer in recent years.

What are your sources of inspiration?

For most artists who work in a conceptually driven practice, inspiration is not really the kind of notion that we are particularly drawn to in the sense that inspiration one thinks of Kant’s critique of judgement and notions of the sublime, and that’s really not the approach that most people that I know work from. I think it’s more about projects that are investigating a question, or a set of questions, or a set of relationships, and we can think of a number of aesthetic models that have come since Kant, since the enlightenment, from relational aesthetics to surrealism to whatever, and so my practice would be, I think, most closely linked to what is termed conceptual photography.

What advice could you give to artists still in school?

I would say that the best advice would be to follow your passions and find ways to connect your work to other issues in the world, whether that’s other artists, whether that’s social issues, whether that’s personal or emotional issues, but I think that it has to have a relevance, first of all for yourself, and then hopefully as you find an audience, people will find your particular contributions. But I think you have to love it all the time. You have to want to do it. It’s a lot of work, and not a lot of return; so you have to have some pleasure in it.

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