Aug 8, 2023 - Culture

Artist Kim Shuck weaves stories and secrets into her beadwork

Photo of Kim Shuck on the left and a woven art piece on the right (showing a bird and a fish)

Kim Shuck (left) and her bead artwork "Oklahoma." Photos: Douglas A. Salin

Kim Shuck's name is familiar to San Franciscans. She is a San Francisco poet laureate emerita who taught in local universities for years and often visits elementary school classrooms to share her love for art.

Driving the news: Her new exhibition "Translations from Here" showcases intricate, textural glass bead art and is on view through Sept. 10 at the San Francisco Main Library.

Details: Each work draws on themes revolving around her Cherokee and Polish identity, the history of San Francisco and her approach to constructing stories in bead and thread.

  • For Shuck, creating art is "sort of a reflex more than a consciously controlled, meditative activity."
  • A lot of it is about "releasing control" and seeing what happens, she said.
  • She added that much of her work is rooted in Indigenous storytelling and her community's relationship to the environment.
  • She told Axios she hides "a couple of secrets" in each piece, such as Cherokee words, which only black lights can illuminate.

How it happened: Some of Shuck's earliest memories involve stitching with maroon thread onto a kitchen towel as a gift for her mother and taking in the various regalia worn at powwows.

  • Those experiences led her to pursue a master of fine arts with a concentration in textiles from San Francisco State University.
  • She tends to listen to a lot of documentaries while creating — her partner considers her an expert in the British monarchy — to "distract the part of the brain that wants control."

What she's saying: "If people could take away anything [from the exhibition], I'd like it to be that this is not a collection" of dated artifacts that you might find at the National Museum of the American Indian, she said. "This stuff exists and is inspired by today as well."


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