Only a few weeks into the job, the new curator of the Indiana State University Permanent Art Collection prepared one of its most valuable pieces for a bon voyage.
Jason Krueger, a 2013 Master of Fine Arts graduate, departed for Marseille, France, in May with Smoke Stacks, an oil painting on canvas made by Joseph Stella in 1935. It is part of the “FUTURS: De la Ville aux Étoiles” exhibit, running May through October, that explores ways science, industry and technology inspired modern artists.
Packaged in a special waterproof crate, the Stella piece — valued as much as $1.5 million — was accompanied by Krueger through the back doors of customs areas. “At first, it sounded like I was going to have to sleep in the warehouse with the painting, but they have security and staff for it (at night),” he said. “I still have to get up early and stay late to make sure it’s handled and hung properly.”
Sorting out what should be in the Permanent Art Collection, which includes two-dimensional art, as well as ceramics and sculptures, is another challenge for Krueger, as the collection has a “long and varied history” of how pieces were introduced.
“What I’m going to enjoy the most is seeing the collection grow and develop into something that reflects the strengths on campus,” he said.
Krueger grew up in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and worked with foil imaging while pursuing his undergraduate degree at the University of Iowa. Because of the expense of the material, he switched to a walnut-ink medium that he makes by himself. Today, he enjoys using ink and paper because of its fluidity, which can also become a metaphor for his content.
Krueger’s work often focuses on the interaction between two people, and his thesis project focused on images of one person saving another from drowning — a reflection on the human condition.
“We rely on one another, even if we don’t know it, and our actions can seem to be harmful or harmless, depending on our perspective, and we must sometimes put ourselves in danger in order to help others,” he said.
Debt is another subject of interest for Krueger, who once wrote a check for each country’s debt and mailed it to them to become the most indebted person in world. His Idebtity series started about 10 years ago to explore the different aspects of how debt can shape one’s identity.
In his current curator role, Krueger will tap his training as an artist and scholar at Indiana State, which taught him about different types of media, best practices for moving and handling artwork and inventory management.
“Curators have to know how to maintain a collection, the workflow of forms and data so you know where everything is,” he said. “You have to know about a lot of different art media. It helps if you have a history in art and, in our case, a history of the art on campus.”