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James Luna, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. High Tech War Shirt (detail), 1997–1998. Smoked hide, silk, horse hair, metal buttons, beads, and watches. 45 x 53 x 8 inches (114.3 x 134.62 x 20.32 cm). Edition of 2. Photo credit: Aaron Igler. James Luna, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. High Tech War Shirt, 1997–1998. Smoked hide, silk, horse hair, metal buttons, beads, and watches. 45 x 53 x 8 inches (114.3 x 134.62 x 20.32 cm). Edition of 2. Photo credit: Aaron Igler. James Luna, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Indian Lounge Suit, 1997. Silk with rayon embroidery. 62 x 22 x 9 inches (157.48 x 55.88 x 22.86 cm). Edition of 2. Photo credit: Aaron Igler.
James Luna, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. High Tech War Shirt (detail), 1997–1998. Smoked hide, silk, horse hair, metal buttons, beads, and watches. 45 x 53 x 8 inches (114.3 x 134.62 x 20.32 cm). Edition of 2. Photo credit: Aaron Igler.
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James Luna, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. High Tech War Shirt, 1997–1998. Smoked hide, silk, horse hair, metal buttons, beads, and watches. 45 x 53 x 8 inches (114.3 x 134.62 x 20.32 cm). Edition of 2. Photo credit: Aaron Igler.
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James Luna, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Indian Lounge Suit, 1997. Silk with rayon embroidery. 62 x 22 x 9 inches (157.48 x 55.88 x 22.86 cm). Edition of 2. Photo credit: Aaron Igler.
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James Luna

During his residency at the FWM, Luna created a series of related works, centering on two costumes, made to fit the artist and for use in a performance or as elements of larger installations.

High-Tech War Shirt is fabricated from smoked hide and adorned with a range of symbolic, decorative elements: beaded medallions commissioned by Luna on the La Jolla Reservation; long filaments of horse hair, which specifically reference Indian tradition; and a necklace made from a large shell encasing a plastic Sunbeam thermometer with plastic toys dangling from the rim. The back of the shirt is made from nylon netting, referencing the trendy sports clothing worn by athletes. The combination of traditional Indian objects and Contemporary trinkets highlights the humor and irony that play a part in all Luna’s work.

Indian Lounge Suit is a flashy, tailored man’s suit made from wine-colored, sharkskin silk, the surface of which is smooth and iridescent. Luna wanted to recreate an ostentatious suit that might be worn by a shyster, something slick yet debonair like Jerry Lewis’ attire in "The Nutty Professor." The FWM worked with a professional embroiderer to stitch a rendition of James Earle Fraser’s famous image, End of the Trail (c. 1894), on the reverse of the jacket. Fraser’s bronze sculpture depicts an American Indian slumped forward on a weary horse, a strong visual rendering that introduced the stereotype of the noble, yet defeated Indian.

These costumes have been used in various installations, but have also been incorporated into the sequel to Luna’s well-known performance, Shameman. Each costume represents an opposite persona: the entertainer or con man of white popular culture, and the authentic spiritual man of Indian culture. Taking on these personas and writing scripts with a great deal of humor, Luna address the complex nature of the Contemporary Native American man.

Bio
American, born 1950, lives on the La Jolla Reservation in Valley Center, California
James Luna was born in Orange, California, to a Luiseño mother and a Mexican father. He studied art as an undergraduate student at the University of California in Irvine (BFA, 1976) and as a graduate student pursued a master’s degree in counseling at San Diego State University (1983). Luna has gained a national reputation as a performance, conceptual, and installation artist confronting and reshaping stereotypes of Native American identity. For his 1987 performance project, Artifact Piece, Luna situated himself inside a museum vitrine, lying on a bed of sand as an anthropological display with labels marking his scars and personal objects such as family photos surrounding him. Luna’s performance and sculptural works have been showcased at the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire (1995); the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa (1992); the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1991); and at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (1991).