First Friday Jon Kolkin

Jon Kolkin’s photos feature life in Buddhist temples

sbarr@newsobserver.comFebruary 4, 2014 

“Open Hands...Open Heart #1” by Jon Kolkin, who is the featured artist at the Mahler Gallery for February First Friday.

PHOTO BY SARAH BARR - SBARR@NEWSOBSERVER.COM

  • Want to go?

    First Friday, from 6 to 9 p.m., is a monthly art event in downtown Raleigh. Galleries stay open late, and many restaurants offer special deals. To learn more, go online to FirstFridayRaleigh.com.

  • More First Friday

    311 West Martin Street Galleries and Studios, 311 W. Martin St., grand opening and “View from the Other Side” by Alex Waddell

    Adam Cave Fine Art, 115 1/2 E. Hargett St., works on paper by Matt Lively

    Artspace, 201 E. Davie St., “Trajectories,” sculptural monotypes by Orna Feinstein and non-traditional fiber art by Jeanne Heifetz; “Celdas,” work by Alma Leiva; “Landfill Dogs,” photographs by Shannon Johnstone

    Blake Street Shops & Studios, 300 Blake St., “Facets & Elements,” mixed media by Anjuli Johnson and photography by Danielle Lota

    CAM Raleigh, 409 W. Martin St., N.C. Arts Council Artist Fellowship Award Exhibition

    Flanders Art Gallery, 302 S. West St., “frames per second,” multiple artists

    Gallery C, 540 N. Blount St., “Francis & Sarah: The Early Years, paintings by Francis Speight and Sarah Blakeslee

    LGBT Center of Raleigh, 411 Hillsborough St., photographs by Kristy McKnight

    Litmus Gallery, 312 W. Cabarrus St., “Inner Visions,” mixed media by Louie Johnston

    Local Color Gallery, 22 Glenwood Ave., “Fractured,” acrylics by Christine Harvaitt

    Lump, 505 S. Blount St., “Range Life” by Thad Kellstadt

    Nature Art Gallery of the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, 11 W. Jones St., “Free and Untamed,” work by Gene Furr

    Nicole’s Studio and Art Gallery, 719 N. Person St., “Winter Respite” paintings by Kimberlee Maselli, David Oakley and Catherine Martin

    Roundabout Art Collective, 305 Oberlin Road, mixed media and assemblege by Lewis St. Louis

    Trinity Gallery, 549 N. Blount Street, “when it falls, when it flies,” work by Emily Brooks

    VanNess & Fellows Tattoo Boutique and Gallery, 226 E. Martin St., “Needle and Thread” multimedia by Amy Friend

    Visual Art Exchange, 309 W. Martin St., “Open Source,” multiple artists; “Welcome to Creepyville: The Hall of Cats,” by Rich Gurnsey

— When photographer Jon Kolkin walked through the entrance of the Taiping Temple in the middle of bustling Wenzhou, China, he knew immediately he had found his next project.

Kolkin was struck by the sense of calm and purpose in the temple, where more than 100 female Buddhist monks and nuns live. He calls it an “inner harmony,” and in his new show at the Mahler Fine Art Gallery, he hopes to convey that feeling to viewers.

Kolin’s show, “Inner Harmony…Learning from the Buddhist Spirit,” features black and white palladium prints of images from temples in China, Bhutan and Los Angeles taken over several years. The photographs are small, in order to draw the viewer close and then into the emotional lives of the temple’s monks and nuns.

“It’s intended to be an experience for people – that they get some sense of what it means to have inner harmony, well-being and equilibrium,” he said.

Kolkin, 62, didn’t start clicking as soon as he entered the Taiping Temple though. First, he met with the master of the temple and shared a bit about himself and his ideas with her, his camera tucked away in its bag.

“We were connecting on a very different level, just trying to get to know one another,” he said.

As she prepared tea for them, he asked if he could take a photograph. She said yes, and Kolkin had his first image for the series.

He then spent time getting to know other members of the temple, building relationships before he took photos during several visits.

There were plenty of challenges: there was a language barrier; most of the monks and nun were reserved and reluctant to have any photos taken of them, especially of their faces; and the light was dim.

Those difficulties were worth it though to capture such a rare view, he said.

For the series, Kolkin also incorporated images from a previous trip to Bhutan and subsequent trips to temples in China, Bhutan and Los Angeles.

Kolkin, who is a physician, traveled to Asia through Health Volunteers Overseas. He’s a co-founder of the Raleigh Hand Center but today works full-time as a photographer except for his volunteer trips abroad. He also works as a health coach.

Kolkin said that in his photographic series, he’s usually seeking to bring up questions of how to live life in a full and balanced way.

It’s a way of life that’s always been important to him as he balanced medicine and photography and his professional and personal life.

“They’re all part of what makes me whole,” he said.

The Mahler is downtown at 228 Fayetteville Street. In addition to First Friday, an artist’s talk is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday during a reception from 3 p.m to 5 p.m. at the gallery. Photographs from Kolkin’s “Seeking Wisdom” series also are on display at the Fo Guag Shan Temple at 2529 Prince Dr. Both shows run through March 15.

Barr: 919-836-4952

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