I recently began recording recollections from my youth.
In the course of recalling some early experiences it became apparent
that my present thoughts regarding my work as a sculptor need a separate
My father was a blacksmith and a tool maker. He worked twelve hours a day, six days a week for most of his adult life. Although we lived modestly, we were never without a meal or a warm place to live. As a youngster I could do anything I wanted to do. However, if whatever I chose to do as a child required money, I could only do it if I had acquired that money at some odd job. There was never discussion about whether or not we were poor, we just automatically knew that every cent had to be accounted for. My brother and I were encouraged from the very earliest time to leave school as soon as possible and secure a position as an apprentice to a journeyman in the trades. It was only because we were in the service that we could consider going to college. Upon being discharged from the Navy I was aware of the benefits of the G.I. Bill but had no intentions of taking advantage of it. Not until much later after I had worked as a punch press operator in a factory 12 hours a night, six days a week for a year did I realize that I might very well have to do that for the rest of my life if I did not consider educational possibilities. I remember agonizing over the possibility of working in a factory my whole life and one time in desperation I mentioned how upset I was with that idea to my brother. At that time he was in the second year studying painting at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and he suggested that I apply also to the school. I had not finished high school and had no diploma. When I applied for admission, they pointed out to me that was not possible unless I receive a high school diploma. I had to go back to high school at age 20 and take three college courses which consisted of math, English and history. I had been out of school for some time and at the end of studying those courses, it became clear that I could not pass them. It was then suggested that I attend an accelerated summer course in those three subjects at Huntington Prep in Boston. The results were the same. Because I was a veteran, I pleaded with the head of the art school, John Fraser, to give me a chance. I suggested that I would like the opportunity to attend the school for one month. If it became clear at the end of a month that I could not handle the program, I said I would leave without hesitation. Mr. Fraser agreed to allow me to try and I was able to attend school the following September. Art school was the beginning of my thinking seriously about the possibility of painting and sculpture as potential careers. This was more or less a desperate attempt on my part to change the direction of my life.
The first year of study at RISD was the same for everyone. It was an introduction into a variety of major interests consisting of painting, sculpture, industrial design, illustration, and advertising. This broad study provided an introduction to a variety of official studies. Upon the completion of that first year the students would be better able to select a major course of study in one of the arts or related fields. Throughout that year, ideas and attitudes were presented almost as laws or rules that had to be adhered to. It was only much later, after completing graduate studies at Yale in painting and then continuing in sculpture that I began to realize that these rules and regulations regarding the formulation of paintings and sculptures were really existing limits that had to be worked through.
For some time after completing school I realized that all of what I had learned in school served only as an aid to that which I was in search of. I had learned a lot about color and the dynamics of design and techniques in both two and three dimensions but most importantly I learned that I had to do something which could be identified more closely with me than with the work of others.
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