For three weeks this semester, Illinois State University’s School of Art was lucky to welcome Brooklyn-based painter Peter Krashes to campus as part of the school’s visiting artist program.
After receiving dozens of applications, the Visiting Arts Committee selected Krashes for the residency last spring. This is because he is a “talented painter, community activist, and someone who has taught in schools,” committee member and University Gallery curator of exhibitions Kendra Paitz said.
While on campus, Krashes used his time to share his perspective and help students create new work based on community interactions. The work that Krashes does focuses on the ways in which citizens can empower themselves against government and corporate power.
“My paintings are often the product of a meeting I arranged or a rally I helped set up,” Krashes said. “It focuses on the beauty of empowering others.”
“Peter taught a seminar for students over the course of three weeks,” Paitz said. “Not only did they meet in the classroom, he also set up visits with a police officer at the Normal Police Department and with the staff at the Children’s Advocacy Center in Bloomington. He really provided the students with unique ways to experience and respond to their community.”
Krashes also conducted individual studio visits with students to offer them constructive feedback about their work.
Krashes spoke with us about his time spent working with ISU art students, stating that their time together was “about art making, and about finding a way to make what you want.” Krashes and his class spent time at the Normal police station as well as the Child Advocacy Center in Bloomington. From these experiences, Krashes said, “we had a variety of artists, some of the students were glassblowers, some painters, some were photographers, to name a few, and each student coped with the situation, distilled it down and found a way to deal with it in their own terms.”
Krashes described a student who spent time talking with a Normal police officer about his experiences transitioning between his time on duty and off, and the fact that one never really “takes off” his or her uniform when working for the police force. As a result of this conversation, this student went to her hometown and took some photographs of a policeman in his uniform and different photos of this officer with his family. “The result was beautiful,” Krashes said of this particular project.
Though Krashes is no longer in residence at ISU, faculty and students interested in seeing Krashes’ work can visit University Galleries now until Dec. 15 to view paintings from two of the artist’s collections, “More Filled Seats Magnifies the Message” and “Block Party Face Painting.”
Krashes completed several paintings from the latter collection while he was in Normal, and told us a bit about his reasoning behind the project.
“I organize block parties in my neighborhood in Brooklyn,” Krashes said. “A lot of the kids who got their faces painted were from a family shelter and were almost shaking as a result of having the full attention of another person placed on them. By getting their faces painted, these kids are choosing — sometimes for the first time — who they get to be.”
For Krashes, this was an incredibly moving moment. The artist likens the creation of these pieces to the process of repainting the actual faces of these children and in doing so, preserving their moment of empowerment, recognizing its significance.
This, as with his other work, is what Krashes strives to do as a painter and a community activist.