Micah Kraus’s studio is an overstuffed mess of color and vibrancy. Science, travel and art books, cans of Rust-Oleum spray paint, shredded prints hanging over the doorway, a shelf stacked with vinyl records (the assemblage of outer sleeves creating a polychromatic effect that is itself a work of art), brushes and paint jars and so much art on the walls that description of the physical space might best be handled with the term “stimulus overload.”
The room speaks not only to Kraus’s interests as an artist, but to the eclectic range of his own work.
Micah Kraus is an artist who has lived in Akron for 17 years and teaches art at Archbishop Hoban High School. His artwork has appeared in exhibits at local businesses and galleries, and his laser-engraved photograph “Ho Chun” won first place this past summer in the Summit Artspace “Photography Now” exhibit. He is mainly a printmaker, which can mean almost anything in the art world.
“One of the things I love about printmaking is that unlike painting or drawing or sculpture, where you know for the most part how they exist and what they do, the first question with print is often, ‘what is a print?’ There really is no boundary,” said Kraus.
This lack of boundaries becomes evident when scrolling through works on Kraus’s website, Genuine Article. A black-and-white close-up of a woman’s face shows detailed landscapes in her pores and traces of color bleeding in from the edges of the picture. Collages of found images, paint splotches, geometric figures and text ripped from magazine ads, phonebooks, who knows. A photograph of a purposeless billboard overlooking a cracked lot off Copley Road, the white paint within its frame beginning to peel away to unveil faint patches of muted colors and rust. Kraus does a bit of everything.
“I really love the development of a project, but I don’t have an interest in making it my life,” said Kraus. “I want to build something and move on from it.”
This sounds about right coming from a man who can give an impassioned description of the beauty inherent in a groove formed in the paint of a stairwell leading out of a subway in New York City.
“Artists should be people who see the world around them, the same world that surrounds everybody else, but from a different angle,” said Kraus.
Kraus seems capable of finding art in anything, so it should not come as a surprise that he creates art using anything, changing styles at will. His visual art inspirations include Jackson Pollock, Richard Diebenkorn and Andy Warhol, artists whose life works were not limited in creative breadth.
One of his foremost non-art inspirations is the allure of abandoned structures, a theme in much of his work.
“I’ve always been drawn to decrepit spaces and the quiet dignity they have as they begin to fall apart,” Kraus said.
Kraus’s “Ho Chun,” the piece that won first place in Summit Artspace’s “Photography Now”exhibit, was created from a photograph he took of a former martial arts school somewhere off South Arlington Street. The building has since been torn down, but on the day Kraus snapped the picture the brickwork was covered in complex layers of ivy that somehow left the words “Ho Chun” visible and undisturbed. He ran the photograph through the laser engraver at the main branch of The Akron-Summit County Public Library, which burned the image into paper, leaving some details from the original undisturbed and causing others to disappear.
“I’m always looking for ways to make my photographs feel more handmade. I get bored with photos. Everybody can do it. There’s no mystery,” Kraus said.
So he added that mystery himself, creating a new image that displays a building many Akronites probably used to pass day after day, a site that may still be vaguely familiar to some but has been skewed just enough so that, in its new form, something about the place seems off, maybe even a touch surreal.
Kraus created a piece of art that embodies his interest in urban decay by altering an original photograph – a literal snapshot of “reality” – into a work of art presenting a small section of the world from a skewed perspective. Kraus lives up to his own standard of what an artist should strive to do, all because he wanted to break away from the constraints of a traditional medium. “Ho Chun” represents Kraus’s relationship with art.
More important, the piece is beautiful. Here’s to many more in the future.
Kyle Cochrun is a writer from Akron, Ohio who occasionally lays on his bedroom floor, breathes into a vocoder and calls the resultant noise “music.”