Saturday, October 13, 2018

Patareka Korbly Crawford--An Irvington Artist

Several years ago, I acquired a beautiful painting of the Kile Oak and home by Patareka Korbly. The magnificent tree still stands although the Kile home is long gone. I had wondered about the artist for years. Who was she? I knew from cursory research that she dwelled at 425 North Audubon Road and that she had been a member of the Hoosier Salon, but I knew little else. Then, through a mutual friend, I was able to contact Pat Korbly Dwyer and Carole Korbly Scott, the daughter and niece of the talented artist.

The Kile Oak and Kile Home by Patareka Korbly (undated) hangs in the author's dining room

From these kind ladies, I began to learn the story of Patareka Korbly Crawford. Born to Henry and Hazel Elfner, Patareka was one of three daughters. She spent part of her childhood at 5845 East Michigan Street. Her father, Henry, was an engineer for the International Harvester plant on Brookville Road just south of Irvington. He actually patented a "black-out" light that companies could use during World War II. Hazel stayed home and raised the kids.

Patareka Elfner attended Howe High School. This shot was likely taken in 1941 or 1942. (photo courtesy of Pat Dwyer)

Patareka attended Howe High School and was a member of a sorority referred to as the "Subdebs." At some point, the seventeen-year-old met Bernard Korbly, a newly-practicing attorney. He was 23 years old. They surprised their friends and family by getting married at city hall by Mayor Reginald Sullivan on July 31, 1942. The couple immediately set up housekeeping in the Korbly home at 425 North Audubon Road. They would have two children, Patareka (Pat) and Bernard, Jr. (Bernie).

While she had no formal training other than a sculpture course in St. Louis, Patareka was drawn to her creative side. She loved to decorate; she held elegant dinner parties; and eventually turned to painting. Her favorite subjects included nature, portraits, birds, flowers, boats, and everyday life. In the early years, she painted with oils. Later, she worked almost exclusively with water colors. She would also paint on any surface. Today, her work can be found on canvasses, T-shirts, milk jugs, birdhouses, and even the backs of historic clocks. She loved to go "junking" with friends and family. She would take ordinary items found in thrift shops and turn these pieces into works of art. Later, she jumped in an orange van and drove around the country to paint in plein air settings. Her daughter, Pat, reports that she would sell her art at various festivals. She painted covered bridges, waterfalls, and farm scenes from her portable easel.

Patareka, Pat, and Bernard Korbly posed for this photo most likely in 1947 (courtesy of Pat Dwyer)

Patareka Korbly c1945 (courtesy of Pat Dwyer)

Patareka Korbly frequently painted in the plein air. In these two photographs, you can see her with her easel near a covered bridge in Parke County, Indiana (courtesy of Pat Dwyer)

"The Lighthouse" by Patareka Korbly (courtesy of Pat Dwyer)

Patareka Korbly painted this winter scene on the back of a clock. (photo courtesy of Chris Dwyer)

Market scene by Patareka Korbly (courtesy of Chris Dwyer)

Both the painting and the lamp shade were painted by Patareka Korbly. The subject of the painting was of the author herself as a young girl. (courtesy of Pat Dwyer)

The Korblys later divorced and both remarried. Patareka Crawford, her name after 1980, eventually moved to Florida where she continued to paint for the remainder of her life. She passed away in 2003. Her work still hangs in homes throughout the Midwest and in Florida. The beautiful scene that hangs in my dining room has more meaning now that I know story of this creative woman. I envision her orange van parked along Beechwood Avenue on a sunny day while she stood on the Kile property painting the majestic beauty that still shades a part of southern Irvington.

Artist, Patareka Elfner Korbly Crawford, painting outside. (photo courtesy of Pat Dwyer)

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