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Artist of the Month - December 2003

Bruce Hucko: Following the Path
by Sydney Francis

Hucko still prints using an enlarger!

Bruce Hucko,- photographer, author, educator, radio producer, and beloved art coach,- is a multi faceted gemstone. Each of his facets is easily worth a full article. He gave me quite a task, relating the ‘cliff notes’ version of his life and challenging me to shape it into 800 words which express the depth and complexity of his art, his process, and his contribution.

Hucko explained that serendipity is what led him to what he called “the path”, on which he is creator, follower, and leader. This article is an account of some of the monuments, sign posts, and events that have occurred on Hucko’s path and that continue to guide his journey.
In 1978, Hucko, a graduate in business management with a love of photography, geology and hiking, was a dissatisfied drywaller in Salt Lake City. He wanted to create poster and postcard photos for the national parks (and has done that!), but was stuck. At this time, Hucko and peers taught a photography workshop, sponsored by Polaroid, to kids on the Navajo Reservation in Montezuma Creek, Utah.

Dawn & Yvonne Nakai from Hucko’s navajo portfolio “A Gesture of Kinship”

At the conclusion of the workshop, Hucko asked the principal if there were any jobs available. There was one-as a kindergarten aid. Serendipity struck and the two-week workshop turned into a ten-year, life changing commitment. After three years, Hucko became a full time Artist-in-Residence in Montezuma Creek through the Utah Arts Council. During his tenure Hucko taught elementary students the principles of art making and the basics of photography and set them loose to create art from their own imaginations. For his efforts the school received a 1984 Rockefeller Bros. Fund Award for Excellence in Arts Education.

Through a series of serendipitous meetings, Hucko and his Navajo students were invited to exhibit at the prestigious Wheelwright Museum in Santa Fe. Two major opportunities were a direct result of this exhibit: the book A Rainbow at Night featuring the artwork of the Navajo students was published; and the offer to become Director of Education for the Wheelwright Museum.

A Seri Indian Shaman sings down the sun.

Hucko took the job, moved to Santa Fe, but soon left to become the art coach to the children in the Santa Clara, San Ildelfonso, and San Juan Pueblo Day schools. This led to his second book of children’s art, Where There Is No Name For Art. It was written and illustrated by the Tewa Pueblo children in collaboration with Hucko. Of the numerous books Hucko has to his credit this book is my favorite. Where There is No Name for Art expresses the beauty, imagination, and cultural traditions of the Tewa Pueblo people through the eyes and voices of its children. For this book Hucko received a Southwest Book Award. The time spent with Pueblo, Navajo and other tribal people has instilled in him the importance of the relationship between people and place, a theme found in all of his work.

Navajo Weaver Maxine Tsinnie of Eyedazzler project

Serendipity led Hucko back to Moab to live and is sending him back to Montezuma Creek. He has just received a $10,000 grant from the University of Utah Center for Documentary Studies to study, through photographs and interviews, the changing lives of his, now adult, students.

Among other community endeavors, Hucko is active at the Grand County High School with his “Voices of Youth” project. The “Voices of Youth” project teaches students the art and aesthetic of community- centered photography.

This winter, Hucko will be teaching a B&W Photography Class for adults (contact the MARC for more information) and an after school art class for middle school students. Next spring, Hucko will team up with KZMU, Bon Kelly and Chris Simon to create a radio production course for teens.

In addition to his youth and community projects Hucko makes photographs. He has at least eleven photographic publications of landscape and southwest Indian art subjects which feature his work exclusively. He’s completed a number of documentary projects, and has several more in the works including portraits of Navajo Weavers and land stewards, and a project on patriotism. And then there is Hucko’s portfolios of landscape and archaeological site photographs, which are the pure expression of his photographic craft.

“Flame Ceiling” from Hucko’s “Ancestral Homescape”© series.

The color and Black & White images I saw were taken with a view camera.. His images capture the abstract poetry and composition of the landscape.

Regarding his photographic work Hucko said, “like my poet friends, I like to get the lines right.” Although said in jest, it is clear that Hucko’s creative vision is like that of a poet. He attempts, through an interplay of lines, shapes, and values, to capture the universal essence of his subject. Often his work, although literal and photographic, appears non-objective and therefore is about the heart of art and creative expression in and of itself.

In conclusion, I am not convinced that I did justice to the gem that is Bruce Hucko. There is a lot more to know. He has the learning, teaching, and art of many lifetimes. He continues to be busy with many projects, books, grants, and children’s programs. However, it is clear that he remains firmly footed on “the path”.

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