James Luna portrays Ishi, the last member of the Yahi, a Native American tribe indigenous to Northern California. Luna and Shelia Tishla Skinner not only pay tribute to the man known during his lifetime as "the last wild Indian" in their performance art, but also give voice to indigenous women.
IDENTIFY pulls back the curtain of time to acknowledge those who are missing from the museum’s historical collections. Wealth, class, race, and gender often determined who could have a portrait made in the 18th and 19th centuries – this performance art series strives to make visible the invisible. Each artist selected critiques American portraiture and institutional history by making visible a body or bodies that historically have been forgotten. Dorothy Moss, assistant curator of painting and sculpture, is the curator of IDENTIFY.
Support for the IDENTIFY performance art series has been provided by the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center; an anonymous donor; the Philip and Elizabeth Ryan Fund; the Director's Visionary Fund; the Marc Pachter Fund for Commissioning; Carol and John Boochever; The Skanby + Gould Foundation; and other individual contributors.