Makers Framed: Photographic Portraits by George Kren
June 17, 2011 – October 16, 2011
“Makers Framed” features over 100 photographic portraits by George M. Kren (1926-2000), a professor in the department of history at K-State from 1965 until his retirement in 2000. The exhibition is part of the museum’s celebration of the Kansas Sesquicentennial. For Kren, photography was an abiding passion; it profoundly engaged him for nearly four decades. As a child, he 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 Margo, his spouse and professor of painting in the K-State art department. The darkroom became an important and permanent fixture in the Kren home.
In 1973 Kren began the practice of creating portraits of artists or persons with some connection to the arts, many of whom were based in Kansas or the region. It was a project that would occupy him for the remainder of his life. Kren’s portraits were the fruits of a collaboration between photographer and spouse. Most of his subjects were friends or acquaintances of Margo, persons 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’ Manhattan backyard.
Kren’s photographic portraits are notable for their incisiveness. 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. 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.
Though 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 siblings’ parents escaped Austria on a ship bound for the United States by way of Africa. Kren, who was twelve at the time, and his nine-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 psycho-history, a method utilizing psychoanalytic theory in the writing of history.
In October the museum will publish a book containing several essays on George Kren’s photography, full-page reproductions of all the photographs included in the exhibition, and biographical information on the subjects. The museum wishes to thank Emprise Bank, Kansas Arts Commission, Kansas State University Academic Excellence, and Margo Kren for generous support of this project.