James Luna

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James Luna
James luna im11.jpg
Born 1950
Orange, California, US
Nationality La Jolla Luiseño-Mexican-American
Education BFA University of California, MS San Diego State University
Known for Performance, installation
Notable work Artifact Piece (1987), Take A Picture With A Real Indian (1993), Emendatio (2005)
Awards Venice Biennale, 2005
Website http://www.jamesluna.com

James Luna (born 1950) is a Pooyukitchum (Luiseño) and Mexican-American performance artist and multimedia installation artist, living on the La Jolla Indian Reservation in California.


Luna was born in Orange, California in 1950 and grew up in Orange County. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of California, Irvine and a Master of Science degree in counseling at San Diego State University.[1] He moved to the La Jolla Indian Reservation in 1975 and lives there today.[2]


Initially Luna began his art career as a painter, but he branched out into performances and installation, which he has explored for over three decades.[3] His own body has been a major component in his work. For instance, in the 1987 Artifact Piece at the San Diego Museum of Man, Luna lay still in a display case filled with sand and artifacts, such as Luna's favorite music and books, as well as legal papers and labels describing his scars.[4]

In 2005 the National Museum of the American Indian sponsored him to participate in the Venice Biennale.[5] The piece he created, Emendatio, included three installations, Spinning Woman, Apparitions: Past and Present, and The Chapel for Pablo Tac, as well a personal performance in Venice, Renewal dedicated to Pablo Tac (1822–1841), a Luiseño Indian author and scholar, who went to study in Rome, where he died.[4]

Academic work[edit]

Luna has taught art at the University of California, San Diego. Currently, he is a full-time academic counselor at Palomar College in San Marcos, California.[6]


During his career, Luna has received many awards, including Best Live Short Performance at the American Indian Film Festival and a Bessie Award from the Dance Theater Workshop of New York. In 2007 he was awarded the Eiteljorg Fellowship for Native American Fine Art.[4]


I truly live in two worlds. This 'two world' concept once posed too much ambiguity for me, as I felt torn as to whom I was. In maturity I have come to find it the source of my power, as I can easily move between these two places and not feel that I have to be one or the other, that I am an Indian in this modern society.[7]

Of the performance "Take a Picture With a Real Indian":

Standing at a podium wearing an outfit, I announce: “Take a picture with a real Indian. Take a picture here, in Washington, D.C. on this beautiful Monday morning, on this holiday called Columbus Day. America loves to say ‘her Indians.’ America loves to see us dance for them. America likes our arts and crafts. America likes to name cars and trucks after our tribes. Take a picture with a real Indian. Take a picture here today, on this sunny day here in Washington, D.C.” And then I just stand there. Eventually, one person will pose with me. After that they just start lining up. I’ll do that for a while until I get mad enough or humiliated enough.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ McFadden and Taubman, 25 and 248
  2. ^ Nottage, 26
  3. ^ McFadden and Taubman, 15 and 248
  4. ^ a b c Nottage, 25
  5. ^ McFadden and Taubman, 248
  6. ^ Biography. James Luna. (retrieved 21 April 2009)
  7. ^ McFadden and Taubman, 12


Gonzalez, Jennifer. "James Luna: Artifacts and Fictions," in "Subject to Display: Reframing Race in Contemporary Installation Art," Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008.

  • McFadden, David Revere and Ellen Napiura Taubman. Changing Hands: Art without Reservation 2: Contemporary Native North American Art from the West, Northwest and Pacific. New York: Museum of Arts and Design, 2005. ISBN 1-890385-11-5.
  • Nottage, James H., ed. Diversity and Dialogue. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-295-98781-1.

External links[edit]