A glance over Kris Kuksi’s mixed-media assemblage and sculptures reveals his faithfulness towards classical form without ignoring the plight of modern time. For example, his sculptural piece, Unveiled Obscurity to be exhibited in Joshua Liner Gallery, NY, is inspired heavily by the master sculptors, like, Giovanni Strazza and Raffaelle Monti, of a bygone era. But, beneath the surface of the artistic intricacy and a perceived serenity lies the seething rage and mournful sighs of contemporary world. Kris Kuksi collects wood, metal and other materials from all over the world to create his ornate pieces. Much like the raw materials themselves the subjects of his artwork also resonate deep into the hearts of a global audience.
Kris Kuksi was born on 2nd March, 1973 in Missouri. He received a Master of Fine Arts degree in Studio Painting from Fort Hays State University, 2002. His work is exhibited in a number of galleries including Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and is collected by the likes of Guillermo del Toro and Robin Williams.
Do you see elements from your childhood that planted the seed of the artistic sensibility in you early on? Did the geographical and cultural landscape of the area you grew up in have a bearing on the making of the man?
Well since the aliens were abducting me on a regular basis back then, I had nothing but art to seek as a form of therapy.
But seriously, yes, living out in the country, in the middle of nowhere, you really had to use your imagination to entertain yourself. I think that’s probably a good formula for creating artistic ideas. You certainly have an appreciation for life and nature growing up in places like that, and perhaps that is the reason I have never really left this area as an adult.
How did your formal training at Fort Hays State University help in honing your skills? Did it let you have the freedom of creating your own artistic individuality?
Fort Hays State was ideal because they weren’t pretentious about conforming to current art trends. My teachers weren’t really big on subject matter, neither talking about it nor encouraging it. It was based more on good design sense, so I think that was the right mixture for me to develop my own ideas and feel good about it. Art is so subjective and it is unfortunate that some find it in their best interests to define what art is. And those people should be eradicated from the face of the planet, just kidding, of course.
How big an influence the art scene of Florence has been on you? Were the multitudinous instances of art and architecture in Italy act as lessons in themselves for the curious mind?
Florence is cool. Enough said. Furthermore, the great moments in art spreading from Italy during the Baroque period have incredibly influenced the western world in terms of design and architecture. But innately I am just drawn to the old world; I enjoy visiting it from time to time.
It is often said that the, ‘devil is in the details’. Is your intricate handiwork a proof of your belief in that philosophy? Do you maintain a sketchbook to register your thoughts and inspirations?
First of all I don’t believe in the Devil. I think people are satanic enough in themselves, and they usually come in the form of televangelists. However, we are all God’s children depending on how much money you give to the church. I think the detail in my work is just because I love details, and most people do as well. Working with tiny stuff is enough spiritual experience for me, devil or not. And yes, I do have a sketchbook and I let the devil take over my body and make a few sketches of teddy bears and flowers. Pure evil!
How do you unite the dramatic aspects of Baroque and ornate yet understated elegance of Rococo, two philosophies that dominated 17th and 18th century Europe, through your work?
I think I was just born with that ability. As they say, ‘blame it on genetics’. But seriously, the time and intellect spent towards the design and development of form from that age really shows what greatness humans can achieve. And not only during such periods, but the incredible temple designs in India and the Orient are incredible milestones in human achievement. I want a piece of that in some form or another. I wouldn’t mind eating a cake in the form of the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
You extensively draw upon historical and mythical figures and present them within a modern context. What inspires you in using age old characters for the purpose of contemporary story telling?
I think story telling is timeless and must be passed down and understood in any modern context. So that’s what I like to work with. It’s all about some sort of message or lesson but told in the visual language. So yes, timelessness is the root of what I’m going for.
Your work often deals with the theme of decadence. Do you believe as an artist you are portraying the world as it is today and it is your duty to do so? As a person do you tend to observe the world with a melancholic view?
Yes, I would agree with everything you have asked. I think humans are decadent because of the fact that we are animals and are always trying to fulfil our animalistic needs. Yet, society and religion are constantly trying to keep the lid on human impulses. I think modern society encourages that through repression. In other words, what you resist persists. People want to have animal experiences, they want to fight, have sex, overeat, drink and be merry — so what!
All of your sculptures are monochromatic. Is it a conscious choice to avoid the distraction of colour, thus, only exposing the core issue to the audience?
Actually, there is subtle colour, so not entirely monochromatic or achromatic as is should be properly termed. But, yes, the form is the important message. We can always enjoy form which is tied to fewer colours—colour is used by trends and fads of the current times. Hot pink would have never gone down well in the old world, well maybe the French, but that’s beside the point.
Your paintings, both figurative and still life, show a variation in subject and technique. Does it help in exploring the many facets of artistic expressionism? From or beyond the world of art whom do you feel most indebted to?
I’m one who can always appreciate different forms and techniques in art. It sometimes seems a taboo for artists these days to work in different mediums and styles, but I believe the artist should always be unpredictable. I feel most indebted to my accountant. He is my spiritual guru. He guides me through my awareness of money, taxes and business expenditures. He’s a wise and noble man.
Your artworks are displayed in reputed galleries and have found place in the private collections of many a famous name. All this might be a measure of your success. But what satisfies you most?
Reaching more and more people that see my work and the overall influence it has on them. I think when most people see my work they don’t forget it very easily. I like to be inspired and I really enjoy knowing my work inspires others. What satisfies me the most is not being cold and hungry—life is truly wonderful—my daily mantra that keeps me sane.
If you are to sculpt your own journey thus far what would it reveal?
I like reliving my childhood daily. I get to play with toys and models for a living. I just want to keeping building and building. One of these days I will build a miniature castle that will be my own museum. And I hope that wild and hedonistic activities happen there while maintaining a beautiful garden space as well.
The charm of Prague feels alluring to Kris Kuksi as a holiday destination. He loves reading The Road, the 2006 novel by Cormac McCarthy. Daft Punk is his favourite musical duo. His taste in food is rather minimal, considering, he loves eating sushi.
Find more of his work at his website.