The work of Kevin Red Star jumps off the two-dimensional surface it was created on, and envelops the senses with a stirring sense of mystical reality. Portraits of Crow chiefs, night riders and legendary figures are drawn from tightly researched design elements that keep Crow traditions and creativity alive.
But something dramatic takes place as you allow the image to sink in. The figures at first appear to be realistic portraits, but then the vibrant colors and styles of the Crow traditions are brought to life. A sense of accurate detail combines with a grasp of personality that conveys the intensity of the subject, until a whole person seems to emerge. This is electric portraiture, lightning coming out of the prairie sky to zap you right between the eyes.
Red Star has an international pedigree of tradition and modernism that would be the envy of any artist. He’’s been an Artist in Residence at the Russian Academy of Arts in Moscow; his art hangs in museums like Whitney Museum of Western Art, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and the Institute of American Arts Museum in Sante Fe, where he trained as a young artist in its inaugural class of 1962. Pieces have been shown in Berlin, Paris, Havana, Beijing, and dozens of other exhibitions.
But his inspiration is strictly from the high plains of Montana. ”Crows are a hardy and beautiful people,” he says in a prepared statement. “They moved camp and followed the game, prairie chickens, deer and elk, and moved to the mountains for big horn sheep, whose hides were so soft they were used for baby clothes.“ He makes sure each detail of his work is grounded in authentic research about Indian design elements and costuming. His work in this exhibit ranges from giclee prints on watercolor paper, to oil, to watercolor and ink, plus mixed media and collage.
His time in Russia was particularly motivating. “The art and artifacts that were returned to the churches after the fall of Communism were carefully preserved by very dedicated people who hid and protected it. They rallied. It’s very inspiring,” he says.
Setting up a studio in Montana keeps him grounded in the realities he conveys in his work; two of his three daughters are involved in the creative arts of the community. He continues his work in the continuity of his people. “I think of my art as a part of the great circle of Crow art…In my own style, I now see myself as a recorder of the Crow arts, contemporary arts. If I can leave a message…saying that Crow art and creativity has never died, then I will have achieved what I wanted to.”
The exhibition is at Ancient Traders Gallery as a part of Mitakuye Oyasin, “All My Relations,” the community-based arts program of the American Indian Neighborhood Development Corporation. The exhibit runs through Jan. 28th, 2006.
The Ancient Traders Gallery is at 1113 East Franklin Ave. , Minneapolis. Parking and entry to the building are on the east side. For more information, contact curator Shirlee Stone at 612=870-7555.