It's among the most colorful exhibitions the Fort Wayne Museum of Art has hosted and certainly one of the most thought provoking. Sublime, intricate paintings, illustrations, even calligraphy, all the work of one of the deans of Fort Wayne's art culture. An artist who thinks, profoundly, before he picks up a paint brush.
“My pictures are made up of symbols,” says artist Don Kruse, “metaphysics and mythical images from a wide variety of cultures. It's almost testing your cultural literacy.”
Don Kruse is Fort Wayne born, South Side High School and IU educated and a retired IPFW art professor. And a conversation with him will likely cover Zen, shamans, quantum physics, politics, transcendentalism and Ralph Waldo Emerson. He says his spirituality was awakened in 1968 with a dream of an assassination, dreamt four days before a politician was shot down in California.
“It was Bobby Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy,” Kruse says, “and I...my chin quivers when I think about it.”
The experience shocked Kruse and plunged him into a lifelong fascination with mysticism, comparative religion and Eastern spiritualism, transforming his art, he says, from pretty pictures to meditations on spirituality and convincing him that artists are divinely inspired.
“He sees a vision that's divinely inspired,” says Kruse, “and then he tries and copy it...copy it so well that when the viewer sees it he will experience the same vision that the artist had when he first saw it. 'Is that what you're trying to do?' Yes.”
On this day Kruse is examining hubris and karma through the old Bre'r Rabbit and Uncle Remus stories; Bre'r Rabbit rewarded for his cleverness, Bre'r Fox punished for his villainy. It's the kind of bond between earthly life and divinity that Kruse says all art reflects.
“You glimpse the spiritual world.,” he says. “You glimpse most of all if you're an artist and go to art museums, you glimpse the eternal in the beauty and completeness of a work of art or of dancing or of a play.”
At 84 years of age Don Kruse maintains a childlike fascination with the world, with the life of the spirit. A fascination that argues there is more, much more, to this universe than we can even imagine, and life really is a marvelous journey.
“The kind of art I'm doing now I realize that maybe nobody's getting at all but I keep trying,” he says. “I thought I was smart. I'm glad I'm getting dumber” 'You know you're making progress then.' “Yea.”
Eric Olson reporting out in 21 Country.