For 45-year-old Fort Wayne native David Krouse - the painter, sculptor, set designer, gallery owner, teacher, father, husband, house painter and all-around mensch - life is good.
Even if things weren't exactly all right, you'd never know it in talking with him. A decidedly uptempo, the-glass-is-half-full-type personality, art is a verb to Krouse, and everything he does in his life reflects art. In other words, he does everything as well as he can.
He's not going to paint you a picture of some false reality or direct you down some primrose lane. He speaks, thinks and creates truth as he sees it, scarce traits in these times, but ones which have endeared him to colleagues, friends and family.
Oh yeah, this affable artist also accommodates a sense of humor that abides the cryptic and tests the limits of political correctness. One never leaves his presence without having enjoyed a full-bellowed laugh.
Quick to realize the many ironies of life, Krouse seizes every chance to portray hypocrisy in all its forms in a variety of media.
Krouse the artist didn't invent his expressionist style in a vacuum, he'll gladly explain, as he did recently in a Fort Wayne Museum of Art presentation. It's origins are traceable to Fort Wayne Art Institute professors Russell Oettel, Noel Duschenchon and George McCullough and his own admiration of the German Expressionists Max Beckmann, Ernst Kirchner and Emil Nolde.
"I think these artists were people who lived in their times to the fullest extent," said Krouse. "They recognized the nature of human folly. Their collective works are intense, some might say extreme and allegorical. Later they toned down some of the drama, but most definitely they have been major influences in both style and subject matter.
"Some people see Cubist-African elements in my sculpture and they're correct," added Krouse. "But I've certainly never limited myself to the role of copyist. The times, new techniques and various advantages won't allow for that type of repetition."
After earning his BFA from IPFW after the state had absorbed the older Art School, he applied for graduate school. Though he was accepted at several schools, only Bowling Green offered him a teaching position as well as admission to the program. By then he was married to Mary Rondot and father of two daughters. For two years Krouse commuted the 90 miles to and from the Ohio campus while Mary worked as a nurse. Together they raised the children while Krouse earned his MFA in 1994.
Krouse began showing his work locally and regionally at a number of venues, including IPFW, Artlink, the Allen Co. Public Library, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Chamber of Commerce, Henry's, the universities of Evansville and Saint Francis, and he designed stage settings for the Fort Wayne Dance Collective. Many of his works are held in private collections.
Almost seven years ago Krouse, with the support and encouragement of Mary, plunged into the arena of gallery ownership and purchased a two-story brick building that formerly housed a metal fabrication shop on South Calhoun Street near the Oyster Bar. After nearly a year of restoration and reconstruction, he opened the 1911 Gallery fronting a spacious studio where he could work.
The space quickly earned a reputation as an edgy place to be shown and seen, and Krouse's efforts attracted a considerable following. Among the shows he either produced or help promote were a solo exhibition of sculptor Dale Enochs, Dongos Curb Feelers, the glass works of Richard Fizer and several group shows, including the IPFW senior show, works by the E4 collective and group gatherings for Michael Poorman, Suzanne Galazka, Don Kruse and Bill Snyder. The 1911 was a perennial on the Trolley Art Event.
All during this period Krouse continued to create his own pieces while earning his living working as an artist-in-residence at elementary, middle and high schools throughout the area and occasionally returning to a trade he learned as a youth, house painting, inside and out.
A survey of Krouse's work - like the grouping he used for his recent FWMOA presentation - can be viewed as perplexing, provocative and enlightening. Nonetheless, certain themes - magic, ritual and manipulation - are nearly always in focus. Other favorite notions, like power, gamesmanship, pride, love gone stale, motherly protection and self-discovery, are often interwoven into his canvases canvas.
Sometimes, like in his large canvas, Robert Bly Weekend, he offers us a sarcastic take on the self-absorbed poet's man movement of the 1980s, with a gathering of guys, drums and fire all gone amuck with one fellow running hard stage right to escape the event. To tell another reoccurring subject, that being his childhood recollections of Catholic church ritual and mystery, Krouse selects a rabbit-out-of-the-hat magician and a levitation trick. In both cases the artist places his characters under cabaret-type theatrical lighting and assigns them cheesy expressions. In other pieces Krouse uses shell-game motifs or clusters of people he refers to as skeptics.
In his black-and-white monoprints Krouse draws upon his life-long love affair with photography. They emote raw strength and power in their simplicity and could have come directly out of the era associated with his friends Beckmann, Kirchner and Nolde. Very precious these pieces, especially some of the smaller ones.
In his latest paintings Krouse has reached for a more bold and colorful palette to create homages to Van Gogh or later Beckmann pieces. His Garden Girl captures the colors of a sunlit garden and more than a hint of his wife Mary whose gardening instincts have become legendary in the couples South Side neighborhood.
As much as Krouse enjoys talking about and with other artists, he also likes his music, which can go from the subtle and driven sounds of Miles Davis and John Coltrane to the vibrant rhythm and blues of Jimmy Hendrix and Tom Waits. In terms of film, Krouse likes his classic Euro-cinema heroes Federico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman and Wim Wenders.
Today Krouse himself is poised like one of his subjects to exit at least partially from the art business scene.
"I've put the gallery up for sale," explained Krouse. "I have and still enjoy most every minute of it, but it does take so much time and effort to run things properly, and that subtracts from my own time in the studio, something I miss more and more. Certainly the economic environment we're experiencing has affected the business of art collecting in recent years, but that's not the sole factor that has influenced my decision. I need my own kind of downsizing."
That's downsize, not disappear.
The 1911 Gallery remains open and Krouse can be reached at 260-745-8468 to schedule an appointment.
by David Tanner
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Art on Broadway — Tours of 5 downtown venues featuring art from Alexandra Hall, Julie Wall, Peter Lupkin, Daniel Dienelt, Knotodday, Kay Gregg, Terry Ratliff and St. Monci, 5 p.m. Saturday, March 25, Broadway Street, Fort Wayne, free, 417-5925
Beer, Bourbon, Bacon Festival — Unlimited beer sampling from national and regional craft breweries, fine bourbon sampling and bacon inspired treats, 6-9 p.m. Saturday, March 25 (5-9 p.m. VIP), Marquis and Three Rivers Ballrooms, Hotel Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne, $35-$75, 484-0411
An Evening with Author Tom Frank — Author of What’s the Matter with Kansas talks about his new book; hors d’oeuvres, lecture and book signing included in admission, 6 p.m. Saturday, March 25, CS3 Hideaway, Fort Wayne, $15 plus donation, 602-1008
Puttin’ on the Ritz —Active 20-30 club fundraiser with live music from Chris Worth and Company, gourmet edibles, wine and beer, live and silent auctions; black tie optional, 7 p.m. Saturday, March 25, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Fort Wayne, $50-$90, 450-2844
Shipshewana on the Road — Food, craft and primitives show and sale, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, March 25 and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, March 26, Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, $4, 483-1111
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Big Dick and the Penetrators — Classic rock at Navy Club, Ship 245, New Haven, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 493-4044
Brat Pack — Rat Pack/variety at Nick's Martini & Wine Bar, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., no cover, 482-6425
Cougar Hunter — 80s glam rock at Vinnie's Bar, Decatur, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $5, 729-2225
Ellsworth Sharp — Neofolk at Friendly Fox, Fort Wayne, 6:30-8:30 p.m., no cover, 745-3369
FBC Band w/Sheba — Variety/Music and Memories benefit at C2G Music Hall, Fort Wayne , 8 p.m., $7-$15, 426-6434
Fireball Matinee — Rock at Hideaway Lounge, Bluffton, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 824-0455
Fleshwounds — Rock at Hamilton House, Hamilton, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 488-3344
Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra — Funk at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m., cover, 483-1311
Fu5ion — Variety at Mitchell's Sports Bar & Neighborhood Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $3, (260) 387-5063
The Illegals — Rock at O'Sullivan's Italian Irish Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 422-5896
Joe Stabelli — Jazz at Don Hall's Gas House, Fort Wayne, 5:45-9 p.m., no cover, 426-3411
John Curran & Renegade — Country at Alley Sports Bar, Pro Bowl West, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 483-4421
Johnny Freakin' Xcitor — Country rock at Beamer's Sports Grill, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m., no cover, 625-1002
Kat Bowser — Variety at Don Hall's Guesthouse, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 489-2524
The Orange Opera w/Mickyle James — Rock at Brass Rail, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., $5, 267-5303
Prime Suspects — Variety at American Legion Post 499, Fort Wayne, 8-11 p.m., no cover, 483-1368
Quincy and the Q-Tet feat. Phil Potts — Rock/variety at Downtown Eatery & Spirits, Warsaw, 10 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, (574) 267-6000
Second Nature — Pop at Crazy Pinz, Fort Wayne, 8-11 p.m., no cover, 490-2695
Shannon Persinger Quartet — Jazz/variety at Club Soda, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 426-3442
Todd Harrold & Nick Bobay Duo — R&B/blues/variety at American Legion Post 148, Fort Wayne, 7 p.m., no cover, 423-4751
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Ambitious Blondes Karaoke — Variety at Office Tavern, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 478-5827
Beat Karaoke & DJ — Variety at American Legion Post 296, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m. , no cover, 456-2988
Bucca Karaoke w/Bucca — Variety at Tower Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-6310
Classic City Karaoke w/Bryan Lee — Karaoke at Corner Pocket Tavern, Fremont, 10 p.m., no cover, 495-9255
Classic City Karaoke w/Tobin — Karaoke at Toad's Tavern, Monroeville, 10 p.m., no cover, 623-6226
DJ Shawn — Karaoke/variety at Club Paradise, Angola, 10 p.m., no cover, 833-7082
Fort Wayne Karaoke — Karaoke at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10:30 p.m., no cover, 483-5526
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Brian — Variety at AJ's Bar and Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., , 434-1980
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Josh — Variety at Arena Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 557-1563
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/TJ — Variety at Chevvy's, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-4748
House DJ — Variety at Early Bird's Ultra Lounge, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., cover, 483-1979
House DJ — Variety at Flashback on the Landing, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., cover, 422-5292
Karaoke — Variety at Crooner's Karaoke Bar, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-3 a.m., no cover, 486-1979
Live DJ — Variety at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
Shooting Star Prod. w/Barbie — Variety at Uncle Lou's Steel Mill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-5787
Shooting Star Prod. w/Stu — Variety at Pike's Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 478-6200
Sidecar Gary's Karaoke & DJ — Karaoke at Kville Pub, Kendallville, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 348-1677
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The Children’s Hour — Lillian Hellman’s seminal drama about bigotry perpetuated against the LGBT community and how easily a lie can spread, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 25, First Presbyterian Theater, Fort Wayne, $12-$20, 426-7421 ext. 121
Getting Sara Married — Comedy about an unmarried lawyer in need of a husband (according to her aunt), 7 p.m. dinner, 8 p.m. curtain, Saturday, March 25, Arena Dinner Theatre, Fort Wayne, $40 (includes dinner & show), 424-5622
One Foot in the Gravy — Howard Kingkade’s comedy and winner of Fort Wayne Civic Theatre’s Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival, 8 p.m. Saturday, March 25; 2 p.m. Sunday, March 26, Arts United Center, Fort Wayne, $10-$20, 422-4226
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22nd Annual Valentine’s Invitational — Works from local and national artists, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment thru March 31, Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568
2017 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards — Award-winning works from northern Indiana and northwest Ohio middle and high school students, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Afros: A Celebration of African Hair by Michael July — Contemporary photography exhibit by Brooklyn author/photographer, daily thru April 14, D’Agostino Art Gallery, Indiana Tech, Fort Wayne, 399-8626
An Artful Spring — Works by Gwen Gutwein, Patricia Weiss, Austin Cartwright and more, Tuesday-Saturday thru March 31, Crestwoods Frame Shop & Gallery, Roanoke, 672-2080
Decatur Sculpture Tour — 31 original sculptures and 15 permanent exhibits on display, walking tour maps available, thru April 1, Decatur, free, 724-2605
Echolilia — Works from Timothy Archibald and his autistic son, Eli, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Entropy — Daniel Swartz solo exhibition explores relationship between death and mourning through combinations of mythology, mathematics, multi-dimensional physics and pop culture, Monday-Saturday thru April 1, Jennifer Ford Art, Fort Wayne, 740-1309
Diane Allen Groenert — Exhibition of local artist’s Downtown Series and new works, Monday-Saturday thru June 24, West Central Microcreamery & Cafe, Fort Wayne, 415-9293
Expressions of Existence — An exhibition of works by artists through history, including Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Francisco Goya and others whose works have been influenced by disabilities, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Fort Wayne Artist Guild Exhibitions — Works by Alice Siefert at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Jennifer Caudel at Allen County Retinal Surgeons, Anita Trick, Citizens Square (2nd and 3rd floors), Darlene Selzer Miller at The Einhaus Group for Women’s Health, Patricia Weiss at Heritage of Fort Wayne, Emily Jane Butler at Ophthalmology Consultants (Southwest), Linda Binek at Ophthalmology Consultants (North), Carolyn Stachera at Rehabilitation Hospital of Fort Wayne, John Kelty at ResCare Inc. Adult Day Service, Wiletta Blevins at Town House Retirement, Karen Bixler at Visiting Nurse Hospice and Barb Yoder and Karen Harvey at Will Jewelers, thru April 30, fortwayneartistguild.org.
Fort Wayne Photographers Club — Exhibition featuring local photographers, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 30, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Garden Party — Garden-themed works in a variety of mediums from over 30 local artists, Monday-Saturday thru March 31, Orchard Gallery of Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 436-0927
Generations: A View of Who Was Who — Works by Romare Bearden, Kara Walker, Alma Thomas, Jacob Lawrence and other African-American artists, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Glass: A Medium in Art and Automobiles — Dale Chihuly blown glass and fiberglass auto, daily thru Sept. 8, Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, Auburn, $7.50-$12.50, 925-1444
A Mary Poppins Garden Party — Child-oriented garden exhibit, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 1, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Moments in Time: Reflecting on the Human Spirit — Elizabeth Opalenik photographs from her recent Amish series A Journey Home and her Reflecting on the Edge exhibition, daily thru March 26, Visual Arts Gallery, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Outdoor Sculpture Invitational — Fifteen outdoor sculptures from regional artists, daily thru April 30, School of Creative Arts campus, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
RAW. Untamed. Unashamed. Visions of Freedom. — Abstract romanticist works in acrylics and epoxy from Kristy Jahn, Fridays and Saturday-Thursday by appointment thru March 25, The Gallery at Pranayoga, Fort Wayne, 423-9642
Sharon — An exhibition of Leon Borensztein photographs chronicling the struggles he faced raising his severely disabled daughter, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Wabash County Schools Exhibition — Works by high school art students, daily thru April 16, Clark Gallery, Honeywell Center, Wabash, 563-1102