Paintings by Harry Fonseca Paintings by Harry Fonseca


Harry Fonseca, The Discovery of Gold and Souls in California, 1991

Harry Fonseca, The Discovery of Gold and Souls in California, 1991
Photograph by James Hart

These paintings extend Fonseca's earlier explorations of the California Gold Rush, a theme appearing in his art over the past twenty years. In his 1991-92 series The Discovery of Gold and Souls in California, Fonseca confronted the impact of the Mission system and the Gold Rush on California Indians. The new paintings began where these left off, and the series evolves much as the Gold Rush itself did -- with ever increasing energy.

Harry Fonseca, The Discovery of Gold in California, 6.25.97, #8

Harry Fonseca, The Discovery of Gold in California, 6.25.97 #8
Photograph by Catherine Buchanan

Fonseca captures the color and resonance of the land as gold was discovered at Coloma, a Nisenan village site on the American River, approximately ten miles from the Shingle Springs Rancheria. These tender paintings reflect a gentle landscape interrupted by the Gold Rush, moving closer on the horizon, spewing forcefully. The browns, blues, and greens of the hillsides are overwhelmed by clouds of gold dust and particles. Saturated with actual soil and dying plantlife that remain today in gold country, the abstractions suggest shadows of the spirits, people, animals, and plants that lived for millennia on this land. As the series progresses, the harmony of the landscape grows increasingly violent. The eruption of land is conveyed through a dense texture of paint, sand, and flakes of gold.

PreviousNext
HomeGuest BookSearchSite MapCreditsGet Involved
1998 Oakland Museum of California. All rights reserved.