Kris Kuksi Performs an Opera For the Apocalypse

by | Nov 10, 2009 | MUSIC

This article appears in our current issue. You can see the entire issue, online for free, here

You’d be lying to yourself if you said that you didn’t have a dark side. Everyone does, to some degree. Some people are really good at keeping their shadow self hidden beneath the surface, and some people have invited the demons over for dinner, discussed how the relationship is going to work, and sent out a press release announcing the marriage. Kris Kuksi’s sculptures eloquently display the darker side of creativity with nightmarish landscapes that transport you to a realm where chaos reigns free. The chaos has a message, though; his work forces you to inspect and embrace the reality of beauty in violence, madness, death, and decay. It’s all around us and part of us all.

This article appears in our current issue. You can see the entire issue, online for free, here

You’d be lying to yourself if you said that you didn’t have a dark side. Everyone does, to some degree. Some people are really good at keeping their shadow self hidden beneath the surface, and some people have invited the demons over for dinner, discussed how the relationship is going to work, and sent out a press release announcing the marriage. Kris Kuksi’s sculptures eloquently display the darker side of creativity with nightmarish landscapes that transport you to a realm where chaos reigns free. The chaos has a message, though; his work forces you to inspect and embrace the reality of beauty in violence, madness, death, and decay. It’s all around us and part of us all.

Parker: What’s your first memory of making artwork?

Kris Kuksi: I still have my earliest drawing that I can remember and it was on the side of a drawer of this little night stand. It doesn’t look like much, just a stick person and a sun and I think it might be me depicted. But my grandmother always had old stationery laying around that I would draw on, but I never really knew that I was good until the first grade and I could outdraw all the other students. But I was always interested in the macabre and the bizarre; I guess those subjects seemed more fun than anything else. Ha, I always drew anatomical things in grade school, which always grossed out the other kids.

How has your work evolved over the years?

It has always had an underlying tone of dark and strange, but I guess in college is when my work reached a sophisticated level that still evolves to this day. Right now, I am in my neoclassical realm, so to speak. But a few years ago, my emphasis would have been more towards death imagery and skulls and skeletons. So I have really enjoyed looking back on how things have changed and morphed into what it is today.

What is your process for constructing your sculptures? How much is planned and how much evolves during the piece?

I get an idea at any random moment, but mostly I would say in that dreamy half-awake moment just before getting out of bed is when I get great ideas. It is sort of like getting a transmission from something, like my mind is a radio. Regardless of that, I work with some sketches, especially if it is going to be a major work. So there is some planning, but most of the time it is a greatly improvised method of creation. In other words, I’m just concerned with what looks good, is the visual balance right, what else needs to be added. And once all the building is done, I paint it all the same color to give it the faux appearance that it is all made of the same material.

What are some of the materials that you use in making sculptures?

Mostly a ‘kitbashed’ method of combing many highly detailed model kits with others. However, I build all the frames and shelves on which they are affixed to with various crown moldings and/or ceiling medallions. I also use some very small brass etched parts for extra fine detailing, just like you would find in the fine-scale modeling hobbies. But in the vaguest way possible, I simply call this method ‘mixed media assemblages’.

You also create drawings and paintings that are very different from your 3-dimensional work. How do these relate (or not) to your sculpture work?

I would say they don’t relate at all. I would have to say I am at least two or even three separate artists in one soul. I can appreciate the beauty in an iris or an orchid and relate the fine details and textures in the pedals, which have more to do with the simple joy of aesthetic things. Yet I can turn completely around and produce very lively and explosively colorful paintings with translucent anatomically exposed animals or humans with many layers of geometric and linear elements. And of course create wildly fascinating 3D sculptures with all sorts of satire and metaphorical meaning. I do think that my drawings, however, do relate to the sculptures more than any of the paintings. Perhaps someday I will showcase more drawings along with the sculptures in an exhibit.

You just created your first kinetic piece for the Carnival of 5 Fires show at Gallery5. How did this come about?

Well, I was in Norman, Oklahoma, of all places, in a little café, wondering what I could do for this Carnival of 5 Fires show. I kept thinking what could be fitting for this show and perhaps something I’ve never done before. And suddenly I thought about these little kinetic merry-go-round sort of things at this local art store. It dawned on me that I could really make a satirical dark humor sort of piece that even moves and has sound! So I quickly drove over and got one that seemed very fitting and about three days later I had produced “AWOL Go-Round”, a piece about the insanity associated with war and conflict. There are eight spinning chairs with a white ghostly soldier seated in each, as well as audio of laughing children and carnival music. So in the end it was very fitting for the whole effect.

You deal with the darker side of life in your work. Why do you feel the need to go this route with your creativity?

Well, yes, with the sculptures I do. The paintings fit more with the beautiful side of life, but I think for now in my life I am obsessed with getting these ‘darker side of life’ feelings out and sharing them with the world. I just feel fortunate that I have been given the chance to do this sort of thing now in life with my youth and energy not letting up anytime soon. Perhaps later in life I’ll sit around in my nice small castle painting flowers and nude women and forget about the troubles in the world…that sounds like a good retirement!

What other artists, musicians, or people inspire you and why?

Drum and bass music really helps to calm my mind, if you can believe it. Something about very fast and insanely progressive but not necessarily heavy music seems to calm my intense thought waves. The music sort of cancels these thought waves out in the same frequency, if that makes any sense – kinda meditative, in other words. Other than that, history really inspires me, and it all has to do with how I present my work, wanting to show a timeless message that we will repeat our history if we don’t learn from it, as Lincoln said.

What are you plans for the rest of 2009 and 2010? What shows and projects do you have lined up?

I have a major solo show in NYC at Joshua Liner Gallery, and I am working on that literally as I type this interview. But once that is over, I’ll jump over to the other side of the ocean to Europe where my heart lives, where historical structures and culture still exists. This time I’ll be in Portugal along the coast watching the ocean and pondering what to do next with myself.

To check out more of Kuksi’s work go to www.kuksi.com.

Interview by Parker.

RVA Staff

RVA Staff

Since 2005, the dedicated team at RVA Magazine, known as RVA Staff, has been delivering the cultural news that matters in Richmond, VA. This talented group of professionals is committed to keeping you informed about the events and happenings in the city.




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