On March 4th the Graduate Center community was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of internationally-renowned performance and installation artist Dr. James Luna (Payómkawichum, Ipai and Mexican). 

Luna’s art interrogated the representation, objectification, and exoticization of American Indian peoples, cultures, and histories primarily through the deployment of his body as a site of satire and institutional critique. In his performances he took on the guise of characters, personas, and stereotypes, often aided by a host of kitschy props and costumes, that were representative of the many worlds in which Luna lived. 

The Graduate Center was privileged to host Luna for one of his final performances in New York when he gave the keynote presentation of the October 2016 conference “Scales of Visibility in Global Indigenous Art”, co-sponsored by the Center for the Humanities and Ph.D. Program in Art History. His performative lecture opened with the artist donning a red baseball cap and, with pursed lips and thumbs-up, he instructed the audience to “Make America Red Again.” On the eve of the November election the performance proved prophetic, and with the line “I love you New York, and New York loves me,” Luna revealed how from an Indigenous perspective the history of Euro-American primitivist performances in the genealogy of Joseph Beuys can be seamlessly shifted into a populist and nationalist Trumpism. 

We have posted Luna’s presentation here in tribute of the late artist’s essential contributions to the history of art, and thank him warmly for his gift.

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