ISHI: The Archive Performance

James Luna

Hope you can come see
ISHI: The Archive Performance
James Luna with Sheila Tishla Skinner
California State University San Marcos, ARTS 111, September 12
Remember to RSVP for tickets
Beautiful poster above created by Megan Doughty

from Culture Storm:
is a new work written and performed by James Luna, renowned Native American, visual and performance artist. In 1911, an Indian man walked into the small northern California town of Oroville. His sudden appearance inspired fright, laughter, and pity from the populace.  The civic leaders had the foresight to contact an anthropologist who came to the conclusion that Ishi indeed was the last of his tribe. It was decided that for his welfare and for the advancement of science that he would occupy the Museum on the University of California Berkeley’s campus, where he lived out his remaining years as a living specimen.

The archives suggest there is more to this story, which has never been told. Believing that the story of Ishi is one that should be remembered and hold an important place in the history and cultures of California and that there is much to learn from him and his plight. Mr. Luna has created a performance that explores this significant life. Many questions about Ishi’s experience, both mysterious and uncomfortable, are evoked by this performance.

On some questions Ishi remained silent, perhaps because of language barriers (as no one could completely translate his language) and so there are many questions that remain which only he could have answered.  Perhaps he could have but chose not to, an “ole Indian” trick?  In any event Ishi’s story remains as a grim reminder of Western fascination with Indigenous cultures and its detrimental disregard of humans, forgetting that we are all sentient beings.

James believes that the Ishi performance has manifested itself at this time in his life, but it’s been waiting inside him for years and has now made its appearance with a vengeance!  He rates this new work with his much-lauded “Artifact Piece.” As in life, Art matters have come full circle.

About James LunaInternationally renowned performance and installation artist James Luna (Puyukitchum/Luiseno) resides on the La Jolla Indian Reservation in North County San Diego, California. With over 30 years of exhibition and performance experience, Luna has given voice to Native American cultural issues, pursued innovative and versatile media within his disciplines, and charted waters for other artists to follow.  His powerful works transform gallery spaces into battlefields, where the audience is confronted with the nature of cultural identity, the tensions generated by cultural isolation, and the dangers of cultural misinterpretations, all from an Indigenous perspective.

Red-tailed hawk

An October visitor, Red-tailed hawk / Buteo jamaicensis, in the pine tree above my front porch. Please click on the images for a larger view.

I’m really a plant devotee, but became interested in photographing birds because of an extraordinary student at California State University San Marcos where I teach. Clarissa McCallum is a birder and phenomenal photographer. My definition of a birder is one who hears the bird before she sees it. One who is patient. Very, very patient. I went out shooting with Clarissa. She was always in place for the shot, whereas I was still looking for the bird. Where is it?

For a final project in an advanced class, Clarissa produced a book on the birds of San Diego County. It’s still available on  Check it out here: Birds I View. If you’re living in southern California, forget traveling to an exotic locale. Clarissa will convince you that San Diego is a birder’s paradise, as well as a plant person’s. Below is Clarissa’s photo of cedar waxwings, Bombycilla cedrorum, one of her favorite birds, resting on sycamore branches.

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 8.12.00 PM

Blue Nile Waterlily, Nymphaea caerulea

_D3A4538-EditThe blue Nile waterlily, Nymphaea caerula, was sacred to ancient Egyptians. When the lily rose from the abyss and the flower opened, its petals revealed a sun god sitting it its gold heart. The sun god banished the darkness, and life began. Photographed in the Adelaide Botanic Garden in Australia.

Repurposed Architecture: Valle de Gaudalupe

La Escuelita in the village of El Porvenir in the Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California, Mexico is a non-profit and sustainable cooperative and wine school considered by many to be the spiritual center of the burgeoning wine country.

For the buildings and structures for the school, green architects Alejandro D’Acosta and Claudia Turrent repurposed materials related to winemaking: wine barrel staves, wine bottles, used irrigation hoses, grape vine stumps, used yucca mats from olive oil processing, as well as rusted box springs and miscellaneous discarded wood from construction sites. Repurposing these used materials, sometimes known as trash, is a large part of their visionary and sustainable building practices.

La Escuelita, or the “little school,” was founded by Hugo D’Acosta, Alejandro’s brother, in 2004. His goal was to help aspiring winemakers hand-craft what are now considered some of Mexico’s finest wines. The school has helped to inspire a renaissance of wine-making in the Guadalupe Valley.

Friends in the photos above are Maori scholars Tharron Bloomfield and Michelle Erai from New Zealand. They’re teaching at UCLA, and this was their first trip to the wine country in the Valle de Guadalupe. The mural is by the local artist Carlos de la Torre.

The guy on the left below is master basket weaver Abe Sanchez, great friend and familiar person on this blog, with Michelle and Tharron.


Palomar Mountain / Deer Hunting Season

If you’re planning a hike to Palomar Mountain in California this fall, give some careful consideration to your outfit. My friend Amy Rouillard and I thought about ours, and we both wore long-sleeve shirts and hats to protect ourselves from the sun.

We didn’t think about wearing blaze orange to protect ourselves from a stray arrow. We were unaware that the day we chose for our hike, Sept. 6, was also opening day for Archery deer hunting season.

We began our leisurely hike in the Fry Campgound area. First we spotted a couple of guys with what we thought were rifles but they said were BB guns. Then we saw several guys walking around wearing camo. After hiking past a camping area filled with guys hanging out, also covered in camo, we decided it was high time to turn around.

When a Fish and Wildlife truck drove by, we flagged him down. He suggested that instead of hiking in the Cleveland National Forest, where hunting is allowed, we might want to hike in Palomar Mountain State Park, where it is not.

Screen shot 2014-09-12 at 10.27.40 AM

We discussed the possibility of rogue arrows. Amy and I both remembered the stories in the news about rogue bullets—celebrities such as our former Vice President Dick Cheney, for example, who accidentally shot his friend while quail hunting. His friend ended up in the intensive care unit twice before apologizing to Cheney for getting in the way of Cheney’s wild bullet . . .

Archery season in our region, it turns out, lasts until September 28, then rifle season begins, then it’s archery season again until December 15.

blaze orange FF6700

Next time we go for a hike, Amy and I will wear our new blaze orange, aka hunter orange, shirts from Cabelas. But I think we’ll still choose to hike in Palomar Mountain State Park until hunting season is over on December 16.

All photos shot at Palomar Mountain State Park.

Pesticide Aerial Bombardment North County San Diego: August 18

Abamectin spray CU_D3A1810
Spraying of the avocado groves has been going on ALL morning. I’ve got a call into Jason Schwartze at the San Diego County Hazardous Materials Program, 858-414-0083, who is in charge of groves. It’s REALLY WINDY right now. Windy conditiions are a terrible time to be aerial spraying (actually any time is terrible) not ONLY for us, but for the birds, the bees, the bugs . . .

Abamectin spray_D3A1822
I spoke with Jason Schwartze, and he said the pesticide is abamectin. He couldn’t say if it is safe. According to the Pesticide Information Project out of Cornell, UC Davis, and others, abamectin is “highly toxic to bees,” “relatively non-toxic to birds,” and “highly toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates.” The avocado groves are planted on hillsides next to a feeder creeks that are part of the San Luis Rey River watershed.

There were several guys working in the flower fields adjacent to the avocado groves when they were spraying this morning. Really incredible! No one was notified. 

I just found an EPA document from 2000 where they wrote: “Abamectin has extremely high toxicity to aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates . . . Aerial spray application is strongly discouraged because drift to aquatic habitats or nontarget terrestrial areas would result in a likelihood of acute and chronic risk. Therefore, EFED does not concur with the proposed label that includes aerial spray application, or in general, to any use of abamectin involving aerial spray application.”

According to Jason Swartze at the SD County Hazardous Materials/Groves Program, there are two companies in SD County that do the spraying, Hummingbird and Pacific Rotor. It’s up to the companies to agree to put you on a list to contact you before spraying. It may be different with beekeepers.

Larger issues here are the toxicity of the sprays used, the fact that according to Jason there is no notification system in place for non-target but adjacent agricultural fields and workers. SD County is required to monitor the pesticide abamectiin, but Jason says he was there for only an hour to monitor and the spraying went on all morning.


The spraying according to my photo metadata began at 8:30 a.m. and ended at 11:53, with an hour and 40 minute break between the two sessions. So Jason, the monitor from the county, was not present at the second aerial spraying when the wind had kicked up. Some university agricultural programs recommend no aerial spraying with winds over 8 mph. Federal guidelines are 15 mph. The company doing the spraying is the one doing their own monitoring, in this case Pacific Rotor. Not ideal. More later about a study focusing on people who use abamectin to try to commit suicide . . .

california native plants, cultures, and the environment: an art and photography site


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