After image (2014)

Rebel Woman
Nikki Luna 

It is not by accident that Nikki Luna renders the ubiquitous AK-47 in lace. The history of this weapon is fraught with ironies and contradictions. Built in 1947, the Kalashnikov assault rifle—with its simple design, compact size and adaptation to mass production—is the weapon of the enemy. There are 500 million total firearms available worldwide. 100 million are of the Kalashnikov family. 75 million are AK-47s. And the hands that hold these weapons are usually that of the rebels, guerrillas, extremist factions, mafias, and communists. 

This is what the artist banks on—the inherent dissent in the AK-47. She tenderly infuses embroidered lace within these cheap weapons of death cast in fiberglass. These are laces that once adorned old wedding dresses. Luna aptly translates the AK-47 as the people’s weapon used in wars waged against hegemonic powers through the introduction of the narrative of these textiles that tame the appearance of the rifles to a point of familiarity.

Fusing the concept of intimacy and conflict, Luna points this weapon back home. Low-cost, reliable, and easy to maintain, the main advantages that made these arms successful are the very same characteristics that define the ideal female best suited for keeping home. In this vein, the artist imbues the weapons with an intense femininity both in form and content, while visualizing for us another war daily waged by another marginalized identity. 

These lace AK-47s reveal that weapon and woman share a story. Luna is just retelling a tale told a thousand times. The woman is the rebel, persecuted for championing her identity. Nevertheless, it is in this very tension where she thrives best.