At first glance, you’re so struck by the incredible detail and authenticity that you might assume that Sattler’s primary objective is to create a historically accurate portrayal of his subject. Wrong. Although he is meticulous about creating a true-to-life depiction of the clothing, artifacts and cultural traditions of the Northern Plains Native Americans, Sattler is more concerned with capturing a sense of spirituality and reverence. The work of Kirby Sattler is fueled by an inherent interest in the indigenous Peoples of the Earth. “People will come up to a painting and actually touch the canvas, thinking the feather is going to move,” he says. With the tediousness of each work, he produces a very limited number of paintings each year.
Although his familiarity with the Northern Plains tribes might suggest to some that Sattler is a Native American, his lineage is strictly European. Originally from Wisconsin, his family moved to Colorado when he was 2 when the traditions and history of Native American still very much a part of the character of the American West. Sattler says their influences permeated his world from an early age. As he began to learn about the values of the Native American culture through visual art, music and dance his fascination intensified. Sattler has managed to achieve his unique style without much formal art education. He attended Arizona State University for a year but quickly realized that he didn’t want to learn to paint in another person’s style. After an accident in the early 1980’s Sattler worked as a caretaker on a ranch. Virtually alone on the ranch without the distractions of urban living, he spent every spare moment painting and, in turn, discovered his calling in life. “I finally got to know who I really was,” he says. “I found that I truly loved to paint.”