1946-2004

King Kuka was born and raised in Browning, on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana; growing up on his family's ranch in Birch Creek. But by high school, he left to attend the art institute where he sold his first painting. Kuka spent time in the military, but by 1978 he became an artist full time. His art reflected his dedication to native people and their spirituality. King earned a bachelor degree of fine arts at the University of Montana, Missoula. He studied mainly painting and sculpture.

 

Throughout the past two decades, Kuka's work frequently was featured at the annual C.M. Russell Art Auction and appears in galleries across the West, in New York, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. One of his prints hangs in the Vatican.

 

Among the first class of artists to graduate from the Institute for Native American Art in Santa Fe, N.M., Kuka was pivotal in the growing Native American art movement, said Inez Wolins, executive director of the C.M. Russell Museum. "He influenced an entire younger generation of Native American artists," she said. "(He) felt this mission to get his artwork out before a wide audience."

 

Kuka frequently switched mediums, painting in oils and most recently in pastels, sculpting and even making jewelry. His poetry was translated into various languages and published. He coined the term "Kuka-graph," prints on embossed paper that would create a ghostlike image, usually of an animal, in the background.

 

Art was not a simple pastime, but the spiritual essence of his life. A strong creative mind rises up to meet challenges and so it was with King. In the time before settlers, vision quests were made by his people. Kuka’s quest was made, and he found his creative spirit. Kuka believed in dreams, the vision kid, the night dreams and the distant one. “Dreams are invisible voices calling me, sustaining me, carrying me in difficult times,” he said.

 

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