Stand By Me

Speaking Nearby*

On New Year’s Day 2021, my friend Sarah sent me a link to a music video, Temple by Thao & the Get Down Stay Down. Earlier I had shared Thao’s track Meticulous Bird with Sarah and we both admired the ingenuity of the video for Phenom which was produced during the pandemic.

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 is wearing a very wide brimmed hat obscuring her features, reminiscent of a traditional Vietnamese farming hat, nón lá. The lyrics are heartbreaking.


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 to have our sewer line repaired. It kept backing up into the basement. (Yuck.) Cadin made an appointment to have a plumber come fix the problem. The plumber came with two Mexicans who dug a very deep hole in our backyard. After they were done digging the hole, the plumber commenced with the pipe work, replacing part of the sewer line that had roots in it 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 he said someone would come finish backfilling the hole, i had my doubts that anyone was going to 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

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

She said, “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 men came to scopethe newly cleared sewer line. I guess documentation was part of the cost of the repair. 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.” By this I gathered that her father, Thay, 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 a retired civil engineer. He 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 as an engineer, but I didn’t.

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 pushing 80.

A few days after Christmas, I got a text message from Nardo.

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

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!

Buttcracker: Diana C


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.

Buttcrackers: Karen dL and Ken J

Buttcracker Public Service Announcement

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



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

The Illuminated Body

An Atlas of Illness and Injury

‘The Illuminated Body’ grew out of my initial fascination with the way that scars and other imperfections on the skin act as souvenirs, portals to the past imprinted on the body of the present. Exploring the intersection and interplay of touch and sight, ‘The Illuminated Body’ is a series of embossed, monochromatic self-portraits that reveal both visible and invisible illnesses and injuries as seen on the skin, while focusing on the fragility and resilience of the human envelope.

The sense of touch is inseparable from the largest organ of the human body, our skin. The liminality of skin led me to investigate touch both literally and figuratively. Touch is fundamental to the process of perception for all of the senses, including mind. In Buddhist philosophy, mind is considered to be a sixth sense, the place where phenomena are pieced together, recorded and edited.

Touch is reciprocal. Maurice Merleau-Ponty wrote about ‘Flesh’ as an animate sentience common to both human subjects and the surrounding environment, a presence that is both sensitive and sensible. I can’t walk down the street or open my sock drawer without touching a world that is at the same time touching me; I can’t feel the world without it also feeling me. Although my background in dance predisposes me toward an embodied perspective, I am learning to listen not only to my body, but also to the world as it responds. This is a process of opening my awareness to the touch and feel of life itself, not just in art and art-making. By honing sensitivity, listening intently to the messages of my injuries, and thinking with my whole body, I begin to see with the soles of my feet and feel with my eyes. Sight and touch are inextricably intertwined and with awareness, attention and clarity of mind, the crucial role touch plays in acting as a base for the other sense perceptions becomes apparent. Through the wisdom of the body, acknowledging illness and injury becomes the first step in healing. Within ‘The Illuminated Body’ is an acknowledgement and celebration of the fact that eyes can touch and skin can see.

The Illuminated Body thesis essay (PDF)

Rabbit, Rabbit

Environmental Studies I

Rabbits represent fertility, abundance and courage. These rabbit prints are mixed media artworks combining traditional printmaking with sumi-e (ink wash painting) and sewn magnolia sepals for ears. Visit Ning Ning Studios on Etsy to order a rabbit print today!