We are honored to feature the Nationally renowned artist Kevin Red Star, a Native American artist who explores the history and culture of his heritage through modern art techniques. His paintings are filled with powerful portraits, bold colors and a seamless execution of Crow Indian culture. Kevin Red Star's work speaks to his background steeped in the arts as well as his Native American upbringing.
Kevin was born in 1943 into a family of traditional and creative people. His parents were both artistic and culture was a big part of their home. He was immersed in the tradition and culture of the Crow Indians. His family encouraged Red Star’s artistic talent, which he displayed at an early age. Kevin grew up speaking Crow and did not speak English until he started kindergarten in Lodge Grass, Montana. His potential gave him many amazing artistic opportunities. A representative from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe visited the Crow reservation and invited the then 16-year-old Red Star to study art at the noted school. In August 1962, Red Star made his first airplane flight, arriving in Santa Fe from Montana to join in the inaugural class of the Institute of American Indian Arts. It was a defining moment in launching the contemporary American Indian art movement.
“The IAIA offered basic art information and how to work your tools. What was so eye opening to me was that we were learning art from American Indian Instructors submerged with other Indians from around the country, but I was the only Crow Indian at that time. After graduating high school from IAIA in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I worked as an art teacher on the Crow Reservation in Montana in Lodge Grass where I grew up. I applied for a scholarship to go to San Francisco. Funding was very limited in the 60’s, no respect for the arts at that time. Once in San Francisco the Instructors would take us out to art gallery openings in the Bay Area. The instructors were very professional and they were also working as professional artists, which really impressed me. I got to see some really fine art, very interesting art that I never got to see in Montana and Santa Fe.”
After his time in San Francisco he returned to Montana, where he is able to explore and get inspiration. “I was in the contemporary world, I’ve been all over the world in big cities, museums and gallery openings, art took me to many places, but I have always longed for Montana. Montana is a place where you can still go hiking and not run into anybody. Taking a walk outside my studio I get inspirations, beautiful meadows, hills mountain backdrop. I imagine sometime maybe there was a village setting at one time or horses running with warriors. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in Montana its beautiful you can do just about anything you want here, Big Sky Country.”
Kevin primarily works in acrylic on canvas, he uses historic photographs of his Crow ancestors, some taken by Edward Curtis and others from his family archives. These photographs help him get the details just right. The painted faces, bird headdresses and feathers are all historically accurate.
He speaks to his unique creative process, “When it is going right, it is like something else takes over. Something carries me. Before I know it, I’ve been at it for three, four hours. I should be tired but I feel good, I am focused. I mix the right pigments. If you go to work daily and get the flow of production going, the energy will go out and bring you what you need.”
Kevin Red Star is committed to preserving his native culture; “We carry on stories that our elders told us to our children and grandchildren. I don’t want our following generations to lose this rich traditional culture.”Join us in the gallery to see his work in person or view his artwork here.