The Bold, Vivid Works of Crow Artist Kevin Red Star [8 Images]

The Bold, Vivid Works of Crow Artist Kevin Red Star [8 Images]

Gale Courey Toensing


The vivid colors and bold shapes of Crow artist Kevin Red Star are now available for your very own coffee table, in a beautiful new book that explores the painter’s life and art.

Kevin Red Star: Crow Indian Artist (Gibbs Smith, 2014) is the first large-format, hardcover book about one of the most acclaimed Native American artists of our time. Red Star’s contemporary style—part abstract, part representational and wholly unique—along with his vibrant colors combine in images that convey a deep love for his subject matter: traditional Crow Indian culture.

Born in 1943 into a family of creative people, Red Star was raised on the Crow reservation in Southwestern Montana by a musician father and a mother who was an expert in fiber crafts. They encouraged Red Star’s artistic talent, which he displayed at an early age.

“I always wanted to be an artist,” Red Star says in the book. “I remember drawing pictures—such as scenery, horses and tipis—but most of all I just enjoyed doodling.”

In 1962, Red Star was among 150 students chosen to attend the then newly established Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he explored Crow history and culture via modern art techniques.

“Indian culture has in the past been ignored to a great extent,” Red Star says in the new book. “It is for me, as well as for many other Indian artists, a rich source of creative expression. An intertwining of my Indian culture with contemporary art expression has given me a greater insight concerning my art. I hope to accomplish something for the American Indian and at the same time achieve personal satisfaction in a creative statement through my art.”

Red Star later received scholarships to the San Francisco Art Institute, where he was exposed to the avant garde and political and social concerns of post-modern art. While there he began winning prizes and awards for his artwork, and his career as a major American Indian artist began.

Red Star’s beautiful and passionate paintings of warriors, dancers in intricate regalia, horses and the big Montana landscape are collected in the Smithsonian Institute, the Denver Museum of Fine Art, the Whitney Museum in Cody, Wyoming, the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe and the Eitlejorg Museum in Indianapolis, as well as elsewhere. The artist has been featured in special exhibitions around the world including shows in France, Belgium, Germany, China and Japan.

Kevin Red Star: Crow Indian Artist was written by Daniel Gibson, who served as the editor of Native Peoples magazine from 2001–2013. The photography is by Kitty Leaken, whose previous projects include Contemporary Native American Artists (Gibbs Smith, 2012). Kevin Red Star consists predominately of reproductions of Red Star’s best work over his 50-year career, including from his student days (some 147 works altogether), plus historic photos of the Crow people and their material culture, and contemporary images of the artist, his family his working environment. Also included are the Red Star Ranch, Crow Fair and other Montana scenes that inspire the artist's work.

As for Red Star’s hope to “achieve personal satisfaction in a creative statement” through his art, it’s clear that he has fulfilled that goal.

“What is an artist? What am I supposed to do? How does an artist conduct himself?” Red Star asks in the video below. “As years went along, I just produced, and all these labels were put upon me, saying, ‘You’re an artist,’ and apparently, that’s what I do, that’s my profession, that’s my career, that’s what I chose. I think when a person just creates, or just works at whatever he loves, I think the goodness comes about, I really do. I think the Creator is there to make things well. I’m just fortunate in that sense that I love what I do.”

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