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American Indian artist focuses on race riot

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  • Robert Schmidt
    http://www.sj-r.com/entertainment/x418863771/Tamara-Browning-American-India n-artist-focuses-on-race-riot Tamara Browning: American Indian artist focuses on
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 30, 2008

      Tamara Browning: American Indian artist focuses on race riot

      Posted Sep 25, 2008 @ 12:00 AM

      American Indian visual and performance artist JAMES LUNA of San Diego
      already had his multimedia installation show “TALKING STONES” in mind when
      he was invited to participate in a citywide memorial exhibition.

      “Talking Stones” is part of “Through the Eyes of Artists: Looking Back,
      Looking Forward,” which notes the Springfield race riot of 1908.

      For the most part, Luna’s installation in the Visual Arts Gallery at the
      University of Illinois at Springfield includes individual pillars that each
      hold video players shining images up through cast-resin stones. Sounds emit
      from audio equipment, giving the stones a “voice.”

      “Then OK, what would represent the riot portion?” Luna recalls thinking
      when putting his concept together.

      The pillar that represents the race riot features a cast-resin brick
      through which images of flames sear from below. Anguished sounds surround
      the installation.

      “Rather than a stone, I have a brick. Sort of represent the destruction.
      Underneath it I have fire,” says Luna, who is retired as an academic

      “The images aren’t supposed to necessarily look like something. This one
      particularly looks like fire.”

      “Talking Stones” takes the idea that organic substances, such as stones, in
      the right time and place transcend the world of utilitarian tools and
      become that of objects that hold spiritual souls and speak of knowledge of
      the “other” world, according to Luna.

      American Indian and African myths say “the stones” of the mineral kingdom
      are the oldest creations in the world. They know everything, according to

      A Luiseno Indian who has lived on the La Jolla Indian Reservation, Luna
      says talking stones are from his reservation.

      “They’re not stones. They’re grinding rocks. They are stones that have been
      rendered to make them a tool,” says Luna, 58.

      “These are also someone’s possession, like your toaster. It could be even
      more than that because this would have taken a long time to work this shape
      in granite.”

      Luna says the rocks “find” him.

      “They’re comforting to me to have them around my house. They’re sort of
      like having my family,” Luna says.

      “Do I talk to them? No. Do I pray to them? No. But I do pray. That’s all
      inclusive in it when you pray to the land, and this is part of it, and for
      the people this is part of it.”

      The brick in the installation “added a social commentary,” says Luna, who
      recently learned about the Springfield race riot.

      Luna thinks that just like other places he’s been to where there were
      riots, Springfield’s were years in the making. The seething of white people
      over the idea of black people having a successful community, the “audacity”
      of blacks “getting uppity” and a black man marrying a white woman all were
      things that were behind the riot, Luna says.

      Luna connects the injustices blacks have suffered with those of American
      Indians — how they both can be viewed as expendable.

      “‘It’s just a black person. It’s just an Indian,’” Luna says.

      “Let’s look at it. Let’s look at the cruelty and the hatred and all this
      other stuff that’s behind it and just not sweep it under the rug and say,
      ‘Well, that happened.’”

      “Talking Stones,” with INGRAM OBER, will be displayed through Oct. 22 in
      the gallery in Room 201 of the Health and Sciences Building at UIS.

      Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday. For more
      information, visit www.uis.edu/visualarts, call 206-6506 or e-mail

      Other exhibits in “Through the Eyes of Artists: Looking Back, Looking
      Forward” are “In 1908 ...” by BRIAN GILLIS at the Abraham Lincoln
      Presidential Library, 112 N. Sixth St., through Oct. 24; and “Across the
      Divide: Reconsidering the Other” at the Illinois State Museum, 502 S.
      Spring St., through Jan. 11.

      Tamara Browning is a columnist and feature writer for The State
      Journal-Register. She can be reached at 788-1534 or
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