Carmel Clay Public Library to Unveil Art Piece by Walter Knabe
Writer // Janelle Morrison Photography // Courtesy of Kelle Knabe
Upon the grand reopening of the Carmel Clay Public Library’s main branch, patrons and guests entering the library from the brand-new parking garage’s upper levels will be greeted by a spectacular 12-foot-wide and 7-and-a-half-foot tall art piece commissioned by CCPL and created by nationally renowned and Indianapolis-based artist Walter Knabe.
The Work of Walter Knabe
Walter Knabe is an American multi-disciplinary fine artist. As a painter and silk screen printer, Knabe’s work is versatile and includes original paintings and limited-edition artwork, fabrics, wall coverings, exclusive lifestyle and home decor and licensed designs. His work can be found in the homes of high-profile musicians, athletes, former presidents, Hollywood directors and actors and at exclusive retailers and private corporations.
Knabe obtained a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin and for more than 40 years, he has built a broad and varied portfolio that includes projects such as being the official artist of the Indianapolis 500, licensed collections for Fieldcrest and Hallmark companies and custom design work for Harrod’s department store in London.
His early projects included working with American art icon Thomas Hart Benton on one of his last murals in Joplin, Missouri. After earning his MFA, Knabe moved to New York City and opened his first painting studio in Brooklyn in 1982.
Upon building a national reputation, Knabe and his family moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1994 to raise his children while continuing to expand his work and branding throughout the nation and beyond.
“I landed here [Indianapolis] over 20 years ago,” Knabe shared. “About 15 years into my career, I had established a national reputation, and my late wife and I had our children at that point. It was unbelievably expensive to raise them in New York City, so we moved to Indianapolis, and I remember being concerned about being able to still ‘connect’ to clients, etc., but we took the risk, and it all worked out just fine.”
Knabe and his current wife and business partner Kelle [Knabe] have been married five years and have known each other for many years. Knabe shared that Kelle was a former client.
“Our studio is located on E. 54th Street, just off the Monon [Trail],” Knabe said. “It’s the very first studio that I’ve had that’s open to the public. Kelle runs the boutique at the front of the studio and the entire business end of my studio. It’s so humbling when people come into the boutique and studio and tell me how they love my work and how ‘positive’ they think it is — and that’s my goal.”
When asked what artists have influenced Knabe throughout his career, he replied, “Robert Rauschenberg, certainly with the imagery. I learned to screen print in New York, and I had the privilege of learning from guys who were printing Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. Their talent was just amazing.”
Additionally, Knabe was influenced by the work of Sam Gilliam, who passed away this past June.
“Sam did abstract work that was gorgeous,” Knabe expressed. “And even someone like Cy Twombly, who’s known for doing scribbles, has influenced me. My work is very narrative. However, I do put scribbles and writing in my work. I think it’s a very humane thing to do, and I love uniquely human elements. I bring those [elements] into my work.”
The Unveiling of Knabe’s CCPL Piece
At the time of publication, the date for the highly anticipated unveiling had not been set in stone but is expected to be installed in time for the main library’s grand reopening celebration on Saturday, October 1.
Knabe expressed his humility and gratitude for being commissioned to create an exceptional piece of art that embodies the spirit of community and inclusivity — two elements that CCPL prides itself for having developed and nurtured throughout its existence.
“I was introduced to CCPL by a few people on the CCPL Foundation who know my work,” Knabe explained. “I am very humbled and grateful for this opportunity.”
When asked what thoughts and emotions of his went into this piece, Knabe thoughtfully replied, “The first word was ‘community.’ I do have to tell you that while the piece is narrative, it has an abstract element to it. While I certainly didn’t want to list all the things you can do in a library, I did make references to different things and have few ‘library’ quotes that I just really love.”
Knabe described the piece as having imagery that depicts the library as a space without boundaries and limitations — much like the universe.
Knabe concluded, “There’s also an all-inclusive human element in it — it’s really a positive piece.”