In Darkness, Beauty Shines

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By Julie Harris

Peter Karklins, a DePaul University security guard, feels unsatisfied with with the world we live in, so he has decided to create his own through art. Deeply sensitive and philosophical, at 67 years old, the Latvian gray-haired artist believes that our world is alienating.  It is a place where the most valued forms of expression (art, poetry, music) are under appreciated, as DePaul University Associate Professor of Philosophy, Sean Kirkland, confided about the artist.

Because Karklin feels society puts minimal value on art, his sizable collection makes him scared for one reason. His biggest fear is that “after his death, along with all his other belongings, his artworks would be swept away by the cleaning lady,” recalls student, Ryan Feigenbaum who befriended Karklins.  The odd pair banded together along with the help of Kirkland, so this would never happen.

“When I saw Peter Karklins’ drawings for the first time, I knew these works were exceptional,” said Feigenbaum, who fully appreciates the depth of Karklin’s creations. When Karklins shared his personal drawings with Feigenbaum, he “couldn’t put them down.”  Feigenbaum would easily lose track of time when analyzing his small-scale, yet largely complex pieces.  Karklins “created little worlds,” Feigenbaum remembers, “that I could easily get lost in.”  The drawings represent a nature and terrain that not only exuded fluidity and depth, but symbolized a place full of mystery where “I still lose myself in these little worlds.”

In 2010, Karklins emerged with an idea for an artistic exchange.  “Anyone who writes something about my work can have one of my works,” Karklins explained.

Fast forward to two years later, on July 12, when Karklins got his wish and his dark creations were unveiled at DePaul University’s art exhibit. “The Nature Drawings of Peter Karklins” is currently on display. A lightweight, camel colored book designed by artist, Dominic Fortunato, rests near the entrance and contains a multitude of short and intense essays written about Karklins’ work. Viewers can gaze at Karklins’ small but mighty 5 X 7 black and white drawings that cling to the crisp white walls nestled on the second floor of DePaul University’s art museum.

When viewing this exhibit, Kirklins explained that his art is an invitation into a “seduction of transport” – a space unknown and unrecognizable in shape to the naked eye.  The act of viewing his art is the act of entering into rather than being taken over by his pieces, Kirklins continues. “We are subjected to its formation and its deformation.”

The momentum born in these barely recognizable shapes, prove to be a mystery only Karklins can unlock.  All twenty conflicting and barely discernible penciled works, lead the eye to a new space outside ourselves – a place inviting us into Karklins’ world.  Although Karklins admits to hating this world, he loves the act of creation. Art offers him an outlet to invent a new form of existence.  For him, “art is the partaking of creation of being.” Art and creation are part of his core and will not be swept under the rug as he fears.

Karklins, always willing to share his works with the public, finds DePaul’s exhibit “encouraging.” Adding, “it’s better than support – its confirmation.” When asked if Karklins still draws, he replied, “Of course I do – all the time.  I’m not giving up.  No way.  When you called I was busy drawing.”

What: “The Nature Drawings of Peter Karklins”

Where: DePaul University’s art museum (935 W. Fullerton, Chicago, IL. 60614)

 When: Through November 18, 2012

Price of Admission: Free

*** (October 12th Reception) at DePaul’s Art Museum shows a video of discussion with guest artist, Peter Karklins and a piano recital


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