Analysis Of James Luna's Artifact Piece

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Native American art has evolved through history and has been used for various reasons such as, insuring cultural traditions, expressing spirituality, and to make sense of existential issues. Modern artists have pieces that tell a story enduring strength of the Native American peoples (Phillips, 1998) .One artist James Luna is notorious for using his body as a means to criticize stereotypes of Native American cultures in Western art. One of his most renowned pieces is Artifact Piece, 1985-87. Luna laid motionless on a bed of sand in a glass museum case wearing a loincloth. Luna persisted to remain on exhibit for several days. The descriptions on the glass case identified his name and commented about the artist’s scar from “excessive drinking.” …show more content…
Luna known as a performance artist and uses multimedia installations. His motivation for his work is a part of a social justice movement (Righthand, 2011). The movement is fighting against invisibility of Native American cultures by expressing the current conditions of the Native American peoples. Some major issues that Luna is raising awareness for is medical conditions such as diabetes and alcoholism. In the Artifact Piece and his other works he provides modern day dialogues of present challenges that are not being taken care of such as alleviating these chronic diseases for the Native American peoples. The topics that he addresses are sensitive subjects and can leave viewers with mixed feelings. His installations such as the Artifact Piece was a brave undertaking because he is tackling matters that people sweep under the rug and by putting himself in the case he put himself in the position of seeing the audiences reactions first …show more content…
He is taking a stand for Native American conditions that are often invisible in Western art. In the Artifact Piece Luna challenged the way contemporary American cultures art present Native American culture as extinct and invisible. The piece was empowering because he placed himself in an exhibition case in the museum in a section on the Kumeyaay Indians, who once lived in San Diego County. There were other mannequins and props showing Kumeyaay’s way of life and culture which were portrayed as lost and extinct (Schlesier, n.d.). In contracts, when viewers looked at Luna’s piece they were shocked to see him as living and breathing. They saw the labels of scars from drinking and fighting as well as ritual items that are currently being used on the La Jolla Reservation. The mixture of items brought to attention the living and still developing culture that Native Americans practice every day. This challenges societal views on how culture is taught and viewed. Museum artifacts are viewed as simply up to chance and technology that they have survived. And in some cases, society will pick which articles to preserve and destroy the others altering what we learn and how we perceive cultures. Furthermore, museums choose to keep an image of Native American cultures as being authentic when those ancestors are long dead, which can live white

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