Peter Ekstrom’s art presented in Malone

Sable Riley

Staff Writer

Peter Ekstrom, a Swedish artist, presented his “Saints and Sinners” collection at Malone Art Gallery Thursday, March 3, at 3 p.m.

In his exhibition, Ekstrom portrays images of saints, martyrs and carnival and sideshow performers.

“The biggest challenge of this body of work was in choosing the representatives of each type,” said Greg Skaggs, associate professor of art and faculty coordinator at Troy University. “For example, Peter includes a sword swallower. It was difficult to find a historical figure that was a female and had a biography.

“He wanted to evenly represent both male and female in the group of drawings.”

Ekstrom’s exhibition includes illustrations of some well-known historical figures such as Joseph Merrick, better known as the Elephant Man, and Saint Peter of Verona.

However, he also includes some lesser-known characters like Wilgefortis. The most famous image of her is an image of a bearded woman being crucified.

While Wilgefortis may not be an authentic person, she is regarded as the patron for women who wish to be liberated from abusive husbands.

Ekstrom also depicts Saint Catherina, an individual who also probably never existed.  She was a martyr who is said to have been a princess born in Egypt. It is believed she became a notable Christian scholar with some supernatural abilities and eventually was beheaded.

In his artist statement, Ekstrom said there are some similarities between the two kinds of individuals depicted.

“Both are examples of our lust for sensation,” Ekstrom said. “Both represent what humans, under certain conditions, are prepared to do to other humans.

“Both are sorts of outsiders.”

In his lecture, Ekstrom discussed his affinity for history, the events that led to his Sinners and Saints collection and the method used to create the images.

For his art pieces, Ekstrom used grisaille, a drawing method previously implemented by world-renowned artists like Leonardo da Vinci, in which the artist uses very dark and very light shades of gray to achieve a certain effect.

He also included patterns borrowed from Russian icons and splatters of red, blue and green to provide additional historical references and colorful emphases on many of his works.

“Peter’s artwork is exceptional because he wanted to make a body of work based on artwork that he had never seen before,” Skaggs said. “He wanted to create a unique series of drawings that he would be interested in seeing in a museum or gallery.”

Ekstrom also shared an opportunity for students to study a semester abroad at Orebro Art College, a small private school where he has been headmaster for 14 years.

Troy’s Department of Art and Design is planning to travel to Sweden and develop several collaborative experiences with Swedish art students in the fall of 2017.

“This excursion will also include a visit to the Venice Biennale in Italy,” Skaggs said. “This exhibition is the largest and considered the greatest art show in the world.”

Students interested in this opportunity can email

The Sinners and Saints exhibit will be on display in the Malone Art Gallery through April 2.

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