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Acquired by Phoenix Art Museum, artist Cannupa Hanska Luger’s large-scale tipi work,
Incendiary (2023), increases the representation of Indigenous artists.


cannupa Hanska Luger

Born in 1979 on Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, New-Mexico-based artist Cannupa Hanska Luger articulates stories anent the 21st Century portrayals of Indigenous cultures and identities through his monumental installations, sculptures, performances, and wall works. Incendiary (2023), one of Luger’s recent works, was recently acquired by Phoenix Art Museum. “Adding Incendiary by Cannupa Hanska Luger into the collection of Phoenix Art Museum represents a significant step forward in growing contemporary Indigenous perspectives within the
PhxArt Collection,” said Jeremy Mikolajczak, the Museum’s Sybil Harrington, Director and CEO.

One of 10 canvases from Luger’s tipi series Incendiary (2023) represents the nomadic lifestyle of the Plains people defined and mirrored by the migration of the buffalo herds. Tipis adapt to the land on which they exist, analogous to how the Indigenous have acclimated over centuries of struggle and ongoing contention with colonizers.

As part of his tipi series,Luger transformed the word “tipi” into an acronym—Transportable Intergenerational Protection Infrastructure. The acronym suggests that the structure can cross time and space, even into future realms of existence, thus solidifying its status as a testament to Indigenous resilience and innovation. Like other canvases from the body of work, Incendiary features recognizable graphic forms of stars and large cartoon eyes with curled eyelashes drawn from specific historical references. The eyes reference stereotypical cartoon characterizations of Indigenous peoples in early animations, while the overall pop aesthetic refers to historical air force nose art. This type of nose art first appeared on British Royal Air Force Tomahawks during World War II and was later adopted by U.S. forces to adorn US P-40s or Warhawks. By appropriating this imagery and placing it onto a Native nomadic structure, Luger reflects on how the Indigenous peoples’ resilience, ability, knowledge, and use of technologies enabled them to withstand the colonial violence and aggression these designs represent. It also reflects how Native American cultural motifs have been appropriated by Western popular culture for centuries.

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