Working in glass and neon, Rory Erler Wakemup draws on his Native American culture, his own experience in the Lakota Sun Dance ceremony, pop culture (think Star Wars and comic book super heroes), and—perhaps most importantly—humor to make and perform art with a strong message. Clad in cast-aluminum armor with glass feathers, Wakemup becomes Darth Chief and hunts offensive Indian “mascots” at sports events or in front of cigar stores. His ceremonial fire is made of neon and repurposed panes of smoked window glass.
“Indian humor is a way for us to all laugh together so we can achieve a cultural balance of equality,” Wakemup says. He is an equal-opportunity gadfly, riffing on the clichés of Native American Art to create a powerful and personal statement.
IMAGE: Darth’s Disco Ball, 2014, glass, neon, wood, 3 x 3 x 3 ft., courtesy of the artist