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James Luna: A Native Place - Research Paper Example

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James Luna: A Native Place Who is an Indian? Is he the traditional brave wearing a loin cloth and a feather in his hair? Is he the screaming, angry, savage, so often, portrayed attacking helpless settlers? Is he an uneducated, heathen, sub-set culture of human history that vanished over a hundred years ago?…
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James Luna: A Native Place
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James Luna: A Native Place

Download file to see previous pages... The phenomenon has been labeled the “Pocahontas Paradox.” Simply defined, it refers to the accepted representations of Indians as a singular structure perpetrated by fictional storytelling which lumps all native tribes as one singular group that behave in one singular stereotyped way (Pewewardy). These terrible misrepresentations and stereotypes has become a very important part of , native born, James Luna’s work. Born in 1950, he is, and always has been, an active member and resident of the Luiseno tribe at the La Jolla reservation in California. In 1976 he earned his degree in Fine Arts-Studio Art, from the University of California at Irvine. Over an artistic career spanning more than 30 years he has set a precedent using his gifts to change the perception of native culture and redefining what it means to be an American Indian today. There are an incredible number of pieces created by James Luna that stands out as fine testaments of his talent and cultural focus. Some are quite innovative installations and others are profound performance pieces. He has the wonderful ability to blend the relevant cultural elements with emotion, satire, and humor (Ketchum-Heap of Birds). Those listed in these pages are but a sampling of the work available, but highlight some of the works with truly profound messages that can speak to people and capture the audiences in exceptionally profound ways. The first is, probably, the most simplistic piece structurally speaking. The elements are common, but make their own profound statement. Luna took a single high-top tennis shoe and adorned it with beads, Conchos, tribal patches, and feathers. The piece is titled, Two Worlds, first appeared for viewing in 1989. Its message is very self explanatory even to the least savvy art viewers. The piece is representative of the his struggle with his tribal life and his life outside the reservation. It clearly expresses the feeling of not quite knowing how to balance his place within the two. That is a situation that a lot of people in a lot of different ethnic backgrounds coming to terms with their cultural identity can relate to. The artist admits that he struggled with this issue in his youth. However, today, he states, “…I am an Indian in this modern society…I can move easily between these two places”(qtd. in “California Indian Conference”). The second piece has a profound significance because it is not, simply, a static artistic work, but an interactive experience for the spectators, where the audience does not, necessarily, realize that at first. This performance piece is titled, Take A Picture With A Real Indian. He began performing this in 1985 and it has remained a relevant “teaching tool” in his attempt to test people’s understanding of what they perceive an actual Indian to be (Righthand). The artist, himself, dresses in different clothing. First, he appears in a loin-cloth and feathers, sometimes a bone-ribbed breastplate. He calls to people, “Take a picture with a real Indian?” People will often line up for the opportunity to do so. They seem fascinated by the concept of seeing an actual Indian in just walking around in modern day America. It is a little disturbing to see how easily people perceive the vision of a Native American in tribal regalia as a novelty. The performance changes when he steps away and changes into his everyday street clothes, a T-shirt and ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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