April 7, 2021 Story by Joe Vinduska and Dave Barnes Courtesy photos submitted Kris Kuksi has received praise from around the globe for his awe-inspiring sculptures, and rightfully so, as they are truly creations you have to see to believe. “We are very excited to have world-famous Kansas artist Kris Kuksi judge our annual BaRTaRT Student Exhibition this year,” Gallery Director Dave Barnes said. “Kuksi is an artist of special regional interest who has created a following of very devoted and erudite fans. He will be exhibiting one of his own sculptural pieces in the exhibit as well.” Kuksi is not only the judge of this year’s BaRTaRT college student show; he is also taping a special dedicated presentation for the annual Virtual Vortex High School Art event in April. He is coming to Barton County and the Shafer Gallery with a message of encouragement and inspiration to rural Kansas high school artists, as he grew up in rural Kansas and has proved that great artists can emerge from even the most humble hometown beginnings. His work is sometimes called fantastic realism or surrealism, but it really doesn’t fit into labels. Legendary filmmaker Guillermo del Toro known for Oscar winning movies such as “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “The Shape of Water” is an avid collector of Kuksi’s work and describes the artist, on kuksi.com, as being “A postindustrial Rococo master, (who) obsessively arranges characters and architecture with an exquisite sense of drama. Instead of stones and shells, he uses plastic soldiers, miniature engine blocks, towering spires and assorted debris to form his landscapes. The political, spiritual, and material conflict within these shrines is enacted under the calm gaze of remote deities and august statuary. Kuksi manages to evoke, at once, a sanctum and a mausoleum for our suffocated spirit." Barnes said the magic of Kuksi’s work is his ability to use the power of simple juxtaposition to create iconic imagery. “For example, the ‘Churchtank’ piece he is exhibiting can evoke all kinds of pop culture and historical associations, from ‘Howl’s Moving Castle,’ ‘Mortal Engines,’ or ‘Steam Boy,’ to any number of triumphant Christian anthems,” he said. “It could also present the idea of the ever-present dichotomies of shadow and light, good and evil, power and grace, and the whole yin and yang of human experience. It might be an emblem of our boldest existential questions. Or, perhaps it is no more than an anime daydream come to life? These are questions only the viewer can answer as they themselves daydream in front of the sculpture. That’s a lot of associations coming from what is essentially deconstructed plastic model car kits on steroids.” Shafer Art Gallery Director Dave Barnes said the student exhibit is a wonderful opportunity for students to gain experience as professional artists. The awards will be announced via virtual reception at 6:30 p.m. April 16 at facebook.com/shafergallery. For more information on Kuksi go to kuksi.com. “This exhibit is an opportunity for Barton art students to display the fruits of the hard work and discipline involved in the process of creative production,” he said. “This is a resume-building exhibit in a professional venue and will hopefully encourage students to fearlessly pursue their artistic careers and interests.” The Shafer Art Gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Admission is always free. For more information, contact Shafer Gallery Director Dave Barnes at (620) 792-9342 or firstname.lastname@example.org.