Pomona exhibit honors makeover

The newly renovated Pomona College Museum of Art opened Sunday. The gallery featured Merion Estes, an artist out of Mount Washington, and Project 30 artist Ken Gonzalez-Day. Firoozeh Navidara, a Claremont resident, takes a closer look at “Bahia II” a painting done by Estes in 1984. / photo by Lindsey Gooding
The newly renovated Pomona College Museum of Art opened Sunday. The gallery featured Merion Estes, an artist out of Mount Washington, and Project 30 artist Ken Gonzalez-Day. Firoozeh Navidara, a Claremont resident, takes a closer look at “Bahia II” a painting done by Estes in 1984. / photo by Lindsey Gooding

The newly renovated Pomona College Museum of Art displayed “A Sea of Possibilities” and “Hang Trees,” on Sunday evening.

Visitors were able to enjoy refreshments as well as admire the museum and exquisitely brilliant artwork by artists Merion Estes and Ken Gonzales-Day.

“A Sea of Possibilities” presents Estes’ paintings from 1971 through 2006. Her pieces combine different materials, colors and styles to create large, captivating visuals.

Many of her pieces use scenes of nature and are so vivid that they bring images of candy and other colorful, bubbly objects to mind.

Estes said her artwork was a medley of many different materials, though it took her awhile to incorporate this into her style.

“I kind of worked my way into it slowly,” Estes said. “When I started working I began thinking what would happen if I used fabric and vinyl. It became more involved and more complex each time.”

Originally from San Diego, Estes came to the Los Angeles area in 1972. A high school interest in art pushed her to study at a community college and then at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Now she works as a part-time art teacher at Cal State Long Beach and Cal State Fullerton.

“Early on, I knew I wanted to be an artist,” Estes said. “I just think it’s fun.”

Although Estes said it was hard to describe her paintings verbally, she admitted there was definitely a lot to admire in each piece.

“They’re very involving for the viewer,” Estes said. “I’m interested in visual complexity; I enjoy the vivid coloring.”

Visitor Ana Martinez of Glendora agreed with Estes. A senior at St. Lucy’s High School, Martinez was invited to the exhibit by a friend.

Martinez said an art class she was in gave her an appreciation for abstract art.

“I’m taking an art class and it’s really helped me to become interested in these exhibits,” Martinez said. “I really liked Merion Estes’ work ‘Variation.’ The bright colors stood out very strongly against the black background and made a beautiful pattern.”

Rebecca McGrew, curator at the museum, said she found Estes extremely talented, and that she was proud to be involved in the exhibit.

“I have always found Estes’ work very interesting, skilled and beautiful,” McGrew said. “The exhibition at the museum is the first major survey of her work, and I am proud to be the organizer of such wonderful and yet unrecognized work.”

Martinez and McGrew also studied photographer Ken Gonzales-Day’s works. His artwork explores issues of racial hatred experienced in the Latin community within the last two centuries.

His exhibit “Hang Trees” delved into the history of lynchings in California.

Gonzales-Day said his favorite pieces in the series were the large prints because he enjoyed viewing the images at such a large scale.

He also said he was inspired to photograph these subjects because very few people were aware of the lynching history in California.

“I was motivated to create this series because so few Americans realized that California even had a history of lynching,” Gonzalez-Day said. “I certainly hope that Latinos will find it valuable.”

Of Mexican-American heritage, Gonzales-Day was born in California. He is currently a professor and chair of the department of art at Scripps College.

When he is not working on a piece, which entails a lot of research, Gonzales-Day said he enjoyed seeing friends, cooking and walking his dog.

He also said art was an important part of his life and that displaying his artwork brought him closer to the viewer.

“I have always made art,” Gonzales-Day said. “I like being able to display and share it with others.”

Martinez said she admired the photographs, but found the large scale of a few pieces unnecessary.

“I didn’t find the huge portrait of the half-naked guy interesting,” Martinez said. “It was just so random and pointless. I really did like the big tree though. Some of the other trees were kind of creepy looking, but that photograph was just so impressive.”

McGrew said she was familiar with Gonzales-Day’s work and liked this series because of its ties to southern California history.

“I have known his work for years and have in fact shown his work once before,” McGrew said. “I find this particular body of work fascinating and relevant since it deals with an undocumented history of California lynchings.”

Along with the artwork, Martinez enjoyed some of the finer things at the reception.

“The intimate setting was really cool and I liked being able to chit chat with the actual artists,” Martinez said. “I liked the exhibit overall and would definitely consider coming back to the museum.”

While the exhibits themselves captured interest, the museum renovations made it easy for visitors to leisurely inspect each piece of art.

Regarding the museum’s new layout, McGrew admitted that the building simply needed to be updated to be made more functional and elegant.

“We upgraded to concrete floors, new walls, and a grand new public entrance,” she said. “We also added a bathroom and a large director’s office.”

The Pomona College Museum of Art will display Estes’ “A Sea of Possibilities” until Oct. 29 and Gonzalez-Day’s “Hang Trees” until Oct. 27.

For more information on this exhibit and other upcoming shows, call (909) 621-8283.

Lilia Cabello can be reached at

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