Saint Louis University


September 15, 2017- December 30, 2017

Jon Kolkin. To Soar. 2015 Palladium print.
21 X 14 inches. Courtesy of the artist

Exhibition Overview

The Inner Harmony... Learning from the Buddhist Spirit exhibition consists of thirty two photographs depicting Buddhist monastics. The artwork is seamlessly incorporated into a contemplative, multi-sensory, interactive environment intended to stimulate thoughtful reflection.

Inner Harmony had its international debut at His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama's World Headquarters in Dharamsala, India (2015). His Holinesses' Foundation then sponsored an encore exhibition at the renowned India International Center Gallery in New Delhi, India.

Dr. Jon Kolkin

Dr. Jon Kolkin became passionate about photography at a very early age while working in his father's darkroom. He also became a nationally recognized clarinetist who toured Europe with the National Youth Symphony. His passion for the arts, complemented by his fascination with the sciences, drove Kolkin to pursue a major in chemistry at Emory University with a minor in the Arts.

After college he earned a degree in Medicine and began his practice as a physician. Throughout his medical career he never abandoned his love for the arts. Kolkin now dedicates his entire time to his professional Fine Art photographer career and teaches medicine to physicians in countries around the world.

Kolkin's work focuses on socially relevant topics that invite dialogue, understanding and mutual respect. He frequently lectures on topics such as "Maintaining relevance within our lives" and "Finding a healthy balance between our professional and personal lives'". His captivating images have won numerous awards and have drawn the attention of private and corporate collectors worldwide. Kolkin's artwork has also been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions around the country.

Development of Inner Harmony

The following is Jon Kolkin's account of how he developed Inner Harmony.

"Although the first photographs for Inner Harmony... Learning from the Buddhist Spirit were not taken until 2011, the seeds for this project were first planted in 1998. At that time I was teaching medicine through Health Volunteers Overseas ( at Da Nang General Hospital in Vietnam. Despite this being my first experience in Asia, I recall how comfortable I felt in this bustling city of 1 million inhabitants.

During a weekend hike up Marble Mountain I came upon the entrance to a dark cave. As I climbed down through the opening, it suddenly widened, revealing a tranquil, majestic cavern, illuminated by a beam of natural light piercing through the darkness from high above. Inside this sacred space was a diminutive Buddhist temple and, not far away, a towering statue of Buddha, carved out of the cavern's sidewall. I was moved by the tranquility that emanated from this expansive, yet understated sanctuary.

During my 11 subsequent humanitarian assignments in Vietnam, Nepal, Bhutan, China, India and Myanmar, I was often immersed in the fabric of local Mahayana, Vajrayana and Theravada schools of Buddhism. In 2011 my travels took me to Wenzhou, China, a frenetic city of 9 million people. A group of Chinese photographers arranged an audience for me at the Taiping Temple, a cloistered enclave of 100 Buddhist nuns, situated in the heart of the city.

The minute I walked through the entrance to the monastery, I was struck by the calmness, order and harmony that existed in this oasis. During subsequent meetings with the temple's headmistress and her representative, I explained my intentions and showed images from previous work. I eventually received permission to return and photograph during a special ceremony. Restrictions included staying in the back of the sanctuary, the usage of no flash and approval before using any images.

Upon entering the temple for the first time I was immersed in a dimly lit, expansive space, with high ceilings, and an illuminated towering statue of Buddha. The faint scent of incense hung in the air and nun's voices filled the chamber with rhythmic chanting. In hindsight, I now realize that my entrance into the Taiping Temple complex and sanctuary paralleled my climb up Marble Mountain and into the cave.

As I moved silently through the space, I felt compelled to artistically capture with my camera what my years of experience suggested exists in the minds of these devote monastics, i.e. a state of calm and inner harmony, whereby one looks inward in the quest for wellbeing, rather than expecting it to come from external sources. After showing my work to the headmistress I was given access to almost the entire complex for a full month.

I have continued on this project for over 5 years, while living in many countries and photographing Buddhist monastics from many traditions. I have intentionally sought broad representation because I want the viewer to focus on a unifying principle with universal relevance.

Inner Harmony... Learning from the Buddhist Spirit has been exhibited as small and intimate black and white prints because of my desire to draw the viewer inward. I have chosen the alternative process of Palladium prints because of the richness, warmth and textural environment communicated by this timeless technique.

I am hopeful this body of work will resonate with a broad audience, as I feel the underlying message is timely, powerful and of universal importance."

Presentation and General Reception

Presentation Title: Living a Balanced Life: Practical Strategies for Busy People 
Presenter: Dr. Jon Kolkin
Date: Friday October 27,
Presentation Time: 5p.m. - 6p.m.
Reception Time: 6p.m. - 8p.m.
Location: Saint Louis University Museum of Art
Parking: Complementary parking is available in the Canisius Lot located at at the corner of Lindell Blvd. and Spring Ave.

Exhibition Support
Inner Harmony... Learning from the Buddhist Spirit exhibition is made possible through the collaboration with Saint Louis University Medical Center.

Saint Louis University Museum of Art
3663 Lindell Blvd.,
St. Louis, MO 63108

Regular museum hours:
Wednesday through Sunday
11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays and major holidays.

Admission is free and open to the public.
For general information, please call 314-977-6631.