Growing up in Hutchinson, Kan., during the Dust Bowl, my mother encouraged my artful nature. My mechanical aptitude came from working on farm equipment with my father. After my mother’s death, I lived with my aunt and uncle until I completed high school.
During my senior year, I took flying lessons. Due to my high math scores and flying experience, I was one of the youngest men who served in the U.S. Air Force and I was posted with India’s transport command from 1943 to 1946. My artistic ventures continued. I painted the noses of bombers, designed and executed stage backdrops and props for a Hindu religious celebration and completed the design of an Air Force chapel in Assam.
After the war, I was admitted into the Art Institute of Chicago and received a Bachelor of Arts in design, painting and sculpture in 1951. I also earned a second degree in abnormal psychology from the University of Chicago. While going to school, I worked nights as an overhead crane operator in the steel mills.
I lived in Chicago for 20 years. My first residence was upstairs of Minsky’s Burlesque House where I created stage and set designs and invited some of the local talent to pose for paintings during their dance breaks. The 1950s and 1960s were my most prolific years. I became well known for my photography and sculpture. While I was vice president of the Chicago Society of Artists, I designed and built its gallery, which unfortunately was destroyed by fire in 1957. Later that year, I helped organize Exhibit “A,” a group of 24 local artists, including Edna Arnow, Donald Schweikert, Angelo Testa, Victor Perlmutter, Bruno Bak and Morris Barzani.
In 1959, I received a grant from the Mexican government to spend six months capturing imagery of Mayan children, villages and schools. This resulted in a black-and-white photographic exhibition in Mexico City (now part of the Smithsonian Collection). In 1963, I received my highest honor, the International Design Award, for my sculpture.
I experienced my first stroke in 1993, but it slowed me only briefly before I went back to my art-driven lifestyle. I lived in a small apartment above a dance studio in Dexter, Mich., and continued painting, sculpting and creating computer-aided imagery. After another stroke in 2004, I moved into the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. I’m well into my 90s now, but my creativity remains unstoppable.