Born: Clinton, Indiana Served in Vietnam, U.S. Army 196th Light Infantry Brigade 1967-68
From the artist:
In 1998, some 30 years after returning to the world from 'Nam, I began to sketch in my mind and on paper, ideas for what was soon to become the image of a soldier in a series entitled "Autobiography." I had recently begun to pursue art again as a serious endeavor, and, after reading an article about a Vietnam Veterans reunion to be held in Okomo, Indiana, where I was presently living, the inspiration for the piece began to take shape. I found myself thinking more and more about that here in Vietnam and about its profound impact on my life. I wanted to represent my Vietnam experience, to express the feeling of being placed in a hostile and unfamiliar environment in which I had no frame of reference and limited preparation, I hoped to capture in the image the overwhelming feeling of being in a dream more than reality. At the time, my work was taking a new direction away from the traditional rectangular painting on canvas. I was exploring a simpler, more basic form of imagery that, coupled with those old emotions, produced the final image in 2001. It was finished, or so I thought.
About a year later, a new idea began to emerge. My thoughts turned to a series of works, a series of self-portraits that would capture not only the feelings and emotions of Vietnam, but the entire experience. I wanted to capture who I was as a person leading up to and during the event itself and to illustrate the impact of the event on me years later. Sketches and work then began on the image of a naive, young, small town, middle-American male who grew up during the black and white fifties. An image of a young man, not so different from many others, who liked fast cars, motorcycles, and pretty girls. A young man who looked at the world through rose colored glasses with no idea of his ill preparedness for what was soon to come. Although it was the second painting I was to finish, it became the first image in the series. It was completed in 2003.
With the two images complete, image #3 began taking shape in my mind. The war had been a horrible, yet eye-opening exprience. I had seen and gone through things that I had never wanted to see or go through, but at the same time, I had learned so much about myself and about life. I wanted this image to represent someone very confused and very frustrated who, like so many others, had returned from war to find their world in turmoil. More and more people were protesting the war and it was difficult to know where or how I now fit into the world. And not unlike many others of the time, I began using mind-altering drugs as a way of forgetting the past and avoiding the present. Like this period itself, my visual depictions were dark and blue. The third painting was completed in 2005.
Since formulating the idea of multiple images, I envisioned just four pieces in the series, the lead up to the war, the war itself, the immediate aftermath, and the eventual coming to terms with the war, the world, and where I belonged. As I began both mental and actual sketches of the fourth and final image of the series, I flashed back to what I felt was the defining moment of my war/life/death experience. It took place during a month-long assignment to an ARVN company base camp. I was assigned as an 81-mm mortar as one of only two Americans. And as I thought about that month and my role in the war, not only physically, but also psychlogically and emotionally. I was a vital human being with a past that I was able to accept and a future that I looked forward to. It was 2008 and I had finished the final image. Through these series of works that I now call "Autobiography," I had depicted a journey that I, as well as thousands of other Americans of that period, had taken. It had been difficult, but I hope these works communicate the common experience that many of us have shared and the idea that there is hope for the future.