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The Lives of Saints

(click the information button on each image to view each portrait’s legend)

The Lives of Saints are portraits that aspire to revelation through illumination. Esoteric in conception, like a map, each portrait is accompanied by a legend. Etymologically, the word legend derives from the Latin legenda which means “things which ought to be read.” In medieval times most of the populace was illiterate; if something was worthy to be written down, it was legenda, “a legend, a story, especially the lives of saints,” to be read on certain days in church.

Photography is my way of writing down things that ought to be read. Through ‘light writing’ — the technology of photography and the juxtaposition of collage — a personal portrait emerges, highlighting dreams, healing, destiny, and choice.

These portraits are the result of a multi-step process, part photography, part conversation, and part divination (by stars or cards). Participants were requested to reflect on their intentions for their portraits (ie: as a reminder of a life dream, as a catalyst for healing, as an image to galvanize authenticity and alignment) and to come for a 2-3h session with an open heart/mind and a willingness to risk vulnerability.

I would like to express my profound gratitude to all participants. If you are interested in commissioning a portrait of your own, please contact me.

Merely a Magical Illusion

illusionary horseman (gift of racoco productions)

Earlier this week I had a moment of clarity. Due to the angle of sunlight streaming in through the window, I saw the emptiness of ‘the man on a horse ornament’ hanging from the window. It made me think of an example in the first chapter in the Saṃdhinirmocana Sutra that we studied this summer at Nitartha.

re: a magician and his magical illusions 

 

“Those who are not naive or confused but have wisdom perceive the grass, leaves, twigs, pebbles, or stones. They see and hear those magical tricks and understand that whatever appears does not exist—that these regiments of elephants, horses, chariots, and soldiers or collections of jewels, pearls, beryl, seashells, crystal, and coral, as well as this abundance of wealth and grain, treasuries and granaries, do not exist.”

 

— Saṃdhinirmocana Sutra (chapter 1, section 1.4, paragraph 3, p40)

 

Stand By Me

Speaking Nearby*

On New Year’s Day 2021, my friend sent me a link to the music video for Temple, a song by Thao & the Get Down Stay Down. Temple features a cast of older Vietnamese dancers in a botanical garden. They strike poses and gesture together as they walk. The plants bear witness to their parade. I love this video for many reasons: the choreography that incorporates pedestrian movement and non-dancers, the family vibe, the song… My favorite part was shot indoors; the dancers improvise moving their bodies freely in ways that are authentic to each individual. Intercut with the dancing is Thao on her guitar. She wears a very wide brimmed hat that obscures her features, reminiscent of a traditional Vietnamese farming hat, nón lá. The lyrics to the song are heartbreaking.

VIDEO STILL FROM TEMPLE (3:23)

I know your father can’t call anymore

He never meant to be a man of war

— from Temple by Thao & the Get Down Stay Down

Recently we had our sewer line repaired. It kept backing up into the basement. The plumber, who was white, came with two Spanish-speaking day laborers who dug a very deep hole in our backyard. After the hole was dug, the plumber commenced with the pipe work, replacing part of the sewer line that had root damage and installing a clean out. He backfilled the hole part way and then left the job half done.

This repair was a job that cost several thousand dollars and although the plumber claimed that someone would come finish backfilling the hole, I had my doubts that anyone would show up to finish the job.


But we found freedom what will you do now

Bury the burden baby make us proud

— from Temple by Thao & the Get Down Stay Down

One morning two days later, I spotted a young asian woman wearing black leggings and carrying a shovel wandering around in the front yard. She was accompanied by an older asian man. I put a mask on and stuck my head out the door to ask what they wanted.

“We’re here to finish the plumbing job.” She must have seen an incredulous expression cross my face because she followed that quickly with, “I’m the owner.”

I showed them to the back yard and they proceeded to fill the remainder of the hole.

Later the same afternoon, two young caucasian men came to scope the newly cleared sewer line. I asked one if the young woman was really the owner and he said. “Yes.” Curious, I asked if she was a plumber and he replied, “No, but she likes to pretend she is. Thay is a plumber.” From this short exchange I gathered that her father was the plumber and likely founder of the company.


We don’t have words for the way you have grown

We’ll always feed you

You can always come home

— from Temple by Thao & the Get Down Stay Down

My father is from a small village in the Philippines. He is a retired civil engineer and ran is own firm for many years, but the business always seemed to struggle. Ever the eldest son, he always paid his employees before he paid his bills or himself.

Firstborn, I was good at math and could easily have followed in his footsteps by becoming an engineer, but I didn’t. Instead I found my way as an artist, having studied dance and math and art and worked variously as a photographer, aerialist, software engineer, and graphic designer.

For Christmas, I sent my father a small bag of delicious salt and pepper pistachios and a short note. I related the story of the Vietnamese plumbing family and how that encounter made me wonder if he had ever wanted me to take over DeLuna, Inc., his now shuttered civil engineering firm. If he had wanted this, it was a wish that was never voiced. My father is a man of few words. In my note, I thanked him for allowing me to go my own way and for letting me be an artist. I know the pressure was there, unspoken, and this is the first time I had addressed it. At this time I am almost 50 years old and my father is close to 80.

A few days after Christmas, my father sent me a text message:

Got the package. Appreciate your little note and thanks for the pistachio


* “I do not intend to speak about. Just speak nearby.” — Trinh T. Minh-ha 12

Thay is a Vietnamese word for teacher; I recognized the term because students of Thích Nhat Hanh refer to him this way.

Diptych Duets

Artists Cadin Batrack and Karen de Luna are partners and collaborators exploring the contours of joint creativity across various mediums. With these Diptych Duets, they are conducting a conversation without words. Taking turns, each artist chooses a photograph from their personal archive and presents it for consideration. It is the job of the partner on the receiving end to find a complementary image and to decide on the diptych layout. The photos in this particular selection of diptychs all have some connection to Seattle or the greater Pacific Northwest.

Buttcracker COVIDEOS

ONE (a Buttcracker COVIDEO)  

Ever since Karen saw Three Dog Night live at a baseball field in Las Vegas as a wee rocker, the song One has had a special place in her heart. Making a fan video for the song, buttcracker-style, seemed like a perfect pandemic project. Cheers to all the lonely buttcrackers, we’ll get through this together!

https://vimeo.com/471613690/94612d683a

Buttcracker: Diana C

ONE

One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do
Two can be as bad as one
It’s the loneliest number since the number one
— Harry Nilsson, One

This song is heartbreaking; it belongs on a playlist with Eleanor Rigby. No animals (including humans) were harmed in the making of this film.

https://vimeo.com/471616461/b74816e644

Buttcrackers: Karen dL and Ken J


Buttcracker Public Service Announcement

https://vimeo.com/471616976

Buttcrackers: Damayonti and Karen

Buttcracker IV

The Final Countdown

Erickson Theater Off Broadway
December, 2018

Little Match Girl in the Bardo
Choreographed and Performed: Karen Garrett de Luna
Music: Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Christmas / Sarajevo 12/24 (Instrumental)
Photo Credit: Jim Coleman


 

NIMBY

Not In My BackYard

Stripped of its context, litter can transmogrify from trash to art. As a gentle reminder that we are privileged to spend time in one of the most beautiful places on earth, NIMBY outlines the traces of human manufacturing that layer the neglected corners of our environment, delicately mapping place, gesture and human presence.

NIMBY was co-produced by the Banff New Media Centre.


trash map and reference environmental photos

The Four Seasons

Four Short Dance Films

Ciconiidae: Late Spring

dance and film – Karen Garrett de Luna
sound design – Christophe Ritenour

Ocean Beach

pinhole photography, dance and film – Karen Garrett de Luna
music – Loren Kiyoshi Dempster

Momiji Rain

dance and film – Karen Garrett de Luna
cinematography – Ahmad Konash
music – Jason Webley

in memoriam Angelyn Taliaferro and Yunie Kim 2010

White Out

dance and film – Karen Garrett de Luna
music – “Casanova’s Flute” by Michael Galasso

special thanks to Cadin Batrack for technical assistance of all kinds