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K-State Today

June 10, 2011

History professor, photographer George Kren makes art of artists and art connoisseurs in 'Makers Framed'

Submitted by Julie Fosberg

Photographic portraits of artists and people with a connection to the arts, all taken by a former Kansas State University professor of history, are featured in a new exhibition running June 17 to Oct. 18 at K-State's Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art.

"Makers Framed" features more than 100 photographic portraits by George M. Kren, who taught at K-State from 1965 until retiring in 2000. Many of the subjects were from Kansas or the region. The exhibition is part of the Beach Museum's celebration of the Kansas sesquicentennial.

For Kren, photography was an abiding passion that profoundly engaged him for nearly four decades, said Bill North, senior curator at the Beach Museum. As a child, Kren observed his father, a physician and serious amateur photographer, as he worked in his darkroom in the family's home. In 1967 Kren set up his own darkroom in the Manhattan home he shared with his wife, Margo, a professor of art at K-State. The darkroom became an important and permanent fixture in the Kren home.

Kren began taking portraits of artists or persons with some connection to the arts in 1973. It was a project that would occupy him for the rest of his life. The portraits were the fruits of a collaboration between photographer and spouse, as most of Kren's subjects were friends or acquaintances of his wife -- people to whom she was connected through her work as an artist, a professor and a member of the Kansas City Artists Coalition. Many of the photographs were taken during day trips the couple made around the state and region; others were shot in the Krens' backyard.

Kren's photographic portraits are notable for their incisiveness, North said.

"Eschewing the obvious and contrived, Kren fixes his subjects as they are, not necessarily as they want to be seen. It is in the moments many would consider as falling between the frames, intervals during which a subject's veil of self-consciousness momentarily lifts, that Kren exposes something of their essence," North said.

Among Kren's subjects included in the exhibition are: Colette Bangert, Robert Brawley, Ronald Christ, Betty Dickerson, Raymond Eastwood, Ann Evans, Terry Evans, Joan Foth, Saralyn Hardy, Don Lambert, Elizabeth "Grandma" Layton, Denise Low, Andrea Norris, Mike Ott, Novelene Ross, Tom Russell, Reuben Saunders, Elizabeth Schultz, Alan Shields, Roger Shimomura, Michael Sims, Robert Sudlow, Eldon Teft, Jan Weiner and Howard Wooden.

Born in Linz, Austria, Kren and his sister fled their native country for England in 1939 as part of the Kindertransport, the British movement that rescued Jewish children from Nazi Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland during the months preceding the outbreak of World War II. Soon afterward the Kren's parents escaped Austria on a ship bound for the United States by way of Africa. Kren, who was 12 at the time, and his 9-year-old sister spent a year living in England before being reunited with their parents in New York City.

Over the course of his career as a historian, Kren distinguished himself as an authority on the Holocaust and a pioneer in the field of psychohistory, a method using psychoanalytic theory in the writing of history. Kren died in 2000.

This October the Beach Museum will publish a book containing several essays on Kren's photography, full-page reproductions of all the photographs included in the exhibition and biographical information on the subjects. Support for the project comes from Emprise Bank, Kansas Arts Commission, K-State Academic Excellence and Margo Kren.

The Beach Museum is on the southeast corner of the K-State campus at 14th Street and Anderson Avenue. Free visitor parking is available next to the building. Normal museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. The museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.