Tony Kukich

Artist Statement

Exploring the complexity of the human condition and my place in it is why I make things. Objects that can explain or define intangible qualities and ideas inspire me. Curiosity, discovery and adventure motivate me to push my ideas forward.

My current work reflects on my partner's illness; a disease that has changed our lives forever. While these pieces are deeply personal and intimate, and are born of something that is truly horrific, I have discovered over time that there has been growth and beauty found in the experience. Pain and suffering has the ability to make one more empathetic, sympathetic and kind. I am interested in my work reflecting on this. While the real experiences are unpleasant and extreme, it's important that my objects be beautiful and complex in form, composition, decoration and surface.

My studio practice is varied: I use building techniques and surfaces that are appropriate for a body of work. I begin with an overarching theme, but rarely start building with a fully formed idea; this approach enables one piece to inform the next. The majority of my work is constructed by connecting leather hard elements together. Prior to building actual pieces, I make components that I think I may need for their construction. I hand build slabs, coils, tubes, cubes and wheel thrown forms. I create more building blocks than I think will be necessary to construct the sculptures I have in mind. The leftover elements allow me to play and free associate while my head is still in a certain frame of mind. This is often when the best work is made or a new direction or nuance is discovered. "Brule Respite #1 and #2" are the results of this approach.

There are recurring forms in my work. The cube is of particular significance. I often distort, compress and enhance its perspective. A "Necker" cube is a two-dimensional optical illusion of a wire frame cube providing no clue to its orientation in space. Perceptions and perspectives can change, and things are not always as they seem. I liken this to some things being closer than they appear in your mirror. Simultaneously, some give the illusion of wellness while harboring mortality.

I have been exploring ideas in clay for forty years and I continue to learn something new about the medium every time I touch it. A few things have changed; I have become more patient with the process, and more diligent when pursuing an idea or surface. I am more serious about and invested in finding and using my distinct voice. I want my work to do for others, what my favorite artists' work does for me; to make tangible those things that cannot be articulated or expressed in any other way.

-- Tony Kukich


Born in Duluth, MN Tony Kukich has been fascinated by art and making things from a very early age, which alternately confused and amused his parents and three sisters. Kukich is a multi-faceted artist who additionally works in pottery, painting, and drawing, though he is best known for his abstract figurative sculptures. He studied art at Bemidji State University (BFA) and Indiana University (MFA). He has had a wide range of influential teachers including, Rimas Visgirda, Marley Kaul, Robert Brady, Kent Dawalt and Sandy Simon among others. his work has been shown nationally and internationally and is in many private collections, and has described as preternatural, existing in a place somewhere between the clear-eyed and quixotic. And although he often explores difficult and complicated subjects, his work maintains a whimsical and sometimes cartoon-like quality. He is also a life long athlete who won a national championship in springboard diving as senior in college. With his partner Amy and his their cat The Black Olive, he now lives and works in Saint Paul MN.