King Kuka was born and raised
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
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.
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.