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Current Exhibition

Mt. San Jacinto College Art Gallery presents

Julie Shafer, In Darkness 

November 6 – December 7, 2023 

Reception with the artist:
Thursday, November 16, 4–6PM 

Online ART TALK:
Thursday, November 16, Noon–1PM 

photo by Julie Shafer

Mt. San Jacinto College Art Gallery is pleased to present Julie Shafer: In Darkness. This is exhibition presents an opportunity for our students and the MSJC community to engage with a special installation of four photographs that present the harrowing final rides of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd. This exhibition is coinciding with the 25th anniversary the murders of Shepard and Byrd which lead to the passing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act in 2009.   

In Darkness is presented as a pair of diptychs that represent the last moments of the lives of both Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr.; one diptych represents Matthew Shepard, and the other represents James Byrd, Jr. Each diptych was made in the same way: Using a DSLR camera, Shafer took one long exposure from outside the window of a rental car while traveling the distance where Matthew Sheppard and James Byrd were picked up by their assailants and ended the exposure at the spot where their lives ended. The second image was created by driving the same route in reverse; starting where their bodies were left and ending back where they were first picked up.  Streaks of light throughout the resulting image were created by a combination of the length of exposure time determined by the two fixed points and the car’s speed—a measurement of the time and subsequent brutality that they endured alone. For this work Shafer uses the camera as a tool to investigate the trauma of American violence against the “other”. 

Fireside Lounge to 41.296111, -105.51500 and Huff Creek Road, Jasper, TX are a series of photographs that serve as an intimate record of bigotry, hatred and homophobia. The coordinates 41.296111, -105.515000 were found via the Internet’s geo tracking of the location of the deer post where Shepard’s brutalized body was found.  Huff Creek Rd. is a remote road in a small eastern Texas town where James Byrd Jr. was murdered.   

This year marks the 25th anniversary of these murders, but also marks the 14th anniversary of the passing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act which amended the federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.

Julie Shafer is a conceptual photographer who recontextualizes histories through pictures. She has documented the effect of oil pollution on the Louisiana Bayou, the effects of mining on Native American lands, and have walked along the wagon ruts of roughly 60 miles of the Oregon Trail to photograph the spaces where Native American petroglyphs have been carved over by the initials of European emigrants in the mid-1800s. 

Julie Shafer (b. 1978 Southern California) lives and works in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Eagle Rock. In 2005 they received an MFA in Visual Art from USC, and in 2000 they received a BA in Studio Art from UC Irvine.  Their work has been exhibited in museums, galleries and project spaces both nationally and internationally.  Shafer is a recipient of the 2018 C.O.L.A. fellowship which includes an exhibition at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery.  In 2017 their work was exhibited in Convergence at the Fellows of Contemporary Art Gallery where they showed photographs and they read creative non-fiction. Ciara Ennis wrote an essay on their work Conquest of the Vertical, which was featured in SPE’s Spring 2017 Journal, Exposure.  They have been invited to create site specific installations including an invitation from the National Park Service where they created a camera obscura in the bedroom of a lighthouse keeper at the Cabrillo National Monument.  Shafer has spoken at multiple Universities, Museums, and art spaces throughout the United States and Mexico, including a TEDx talk in 2013 about their approach to photography, documented on the TEDx YouTube channel.   

Shafer is an Associate Professor of Art at Chapman University in the Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.