Artist Zhi Lin Celebrates The 150th Anniversary Of The Completion Of The Transcontinental Railroad And The Chinese Coolee Labor Who Built Its Western Portion
May 4, through November 10, 2019, at the
Nevada Museum of Art
Beside the grade or the rails, people find only trees on the ground and the sky above. This landscape for them does not have a human memory. However, I hope that after viewing my work, when people look at the trees, and the sky, and along the passage of the old grade, they will be able to see the presence of the workers. – Zhi Lin
In his ongoing series of watercolor paintings, Zhi Lin reminds us how easy it is to overlook places where tragic historical events have occurred. While traveling in California and Nevada between 2005 and 2007, Lin made sketches of tunnels, bridges, rivers, and other sites where he discovered traces of Chinese railroad workers who once lived and worked in the Sierra. He hopes that his paintings help people to better understand the lives of workers who left no written accounts or journal entries chronicling their experiences.
One of Lin’s sketches shows the treacherous granite cliffs on Donner Pass, where many railroad workers lost their lives in the winter of 1866-67. Another painting depicts a Chinese temple in Auburn, where the bodies of workers were transported before their return to family members in China. In 1870, families living in China sent a bone collector to California to recover the human remains of their deceased relatives—which amounted to 20,000 pounds of human bones. Following the completion of the railroad, many Chinese workers settled on the outskirts of towns such as Truckee, Auburn, Nevada City, and Reno. These communities became targets for racial discrimination, many were condemned, and others were burned due to arson. One of Lin’s illustrations shows the Chinese Herb House in Truckee, the last remnant of Truckee’s Chinatown, which at its peak numbered 1,400 people.
The Nevada Museum of Art will commemorate the historic 150th Anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. Artists Zhi Lin and Hung Liu will join Andrea and John C. Deane Senior Curator and Deputy Director Ann M. Wolfe to discuss their artworks made in response to the sacrifices of Chinese Railroad workers who raced to complete the rail line that would unite America from east to west in 1869. Directly following the presentation, a ceremonial gathering will take place at the exact time 150 years ago that the Golden Spike was hammered into the last rail at Promontory, Utah by Leland Stanford. The program will include remarks followed by the recitation of the names of over 800 known Chinese railroad workers between 2:27 pm and 2:47 pm—a twenty minute period during which the original telegram announcing the completion of the railroad was sent from Utah to Washington, DC, in 1869. This honorific recitation will be accompanied by the playing of traditional Chinese instruments by Todd Green.
The ceremony and panel discussion will take place in the Nightingale Sky Room with sweeping views of the Sierra Nevada. Friday, May 10, 20191:30 – 3 pm.
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