Kirk self-identified as Armenian despite being born in Los Angeles and raised in New England. One of his Armenian ancestors, Vemian, was a jeweller to the Turkish court. Some of his works are on display at Istanbul’s Topkapi Museum. His grandfather worked for Lalique Glass in Paris as a chief artist.
He escaped the Soviet Union by swimming the Araks River in 1967. He lived in Istanbul and Beirut for a while. He moved to New York in 1974. Early on, his work resembled sculptural clay bits discovered in prehistoric investigations. His 1975 installation at P.S. 1 in Long Island City, New York, 1,000 Bricks Gilded in 22 Carat Gold Leaf, demonstrated a fascination in gold leaf, which he later employed on his furniture pieces.