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Half Indian/Half Mexican

Half Indian/Half Mexican

James Luna
United States, born 1950
Half Indian/Half Mexican, 1991
three black and white photographs, photographer: Richard A. Lou
30 x 24 in. (76.2 x 61 cm), each of 3
Gift of the Peter Norton Family Foundation
© Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

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Luna makes Half Indian/ Half Mexican

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Who What Where When Why

Who is the artist?
James Luna

What is the name of the artwork?
Half Indian/Half Mexican

What materials were used?
Three black and white photographs

Where is the artist from?
United States

When was the artwork made?


James Luna is a Luiseño Indian who lives on the La Jolla Reservation in San Diego County. Luna went to the University of California, Irvine where he studied painting. Even though Luna is a painter, he felt that the best way to talk about himself and his family background was through performance and installation art. In 1987, Luna created a performance piece, called Artifact Man, at the Museum of Man, San Diego. For this piece, Luna laid in a display case at the museum. The visitors were surprised to find that Luna was alive. Luna did this to critique the way that museums normally display Indian history.


In Half Indian/Half Mexican, there are three black and white photographs of Luna’s face. The photograph on the left is of the left side of his face. This side has Luna with long hair and no facial hair. Luna says this photo shows what he looks like as an Indian. The photograph on the right is a photograph of the right side of Luna’s face. This side has Luna with short, slicked back hair and a moustache. Luna says this photo shows what he looks like as a Mexican. The middle photograph is a photograph of Luna’s face from the front, and it shows both sides of his face—the left side that represents him as an Indian and the right side that represents him as a Mexican. The middle photograph is used to show us that Luna’s background has two parts to it: half Indian and half Mexican.

How does Luna show the stereotypes of his two family backgrounds?

Why do you think that Luna wanted to show his family background?

How are the photographs on the left and the right similar? How are they different?

What would your photograph look like if you showed your family background? Would you incorporate stereotypes? Why or why not?

Glossary Terms

Installation - A work of art that is created for a specific place, often using materials or physical features from that place.



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