I've been joyfully engaged with art throughout my life. As a little boy I was mesmerized by new coloring books and crayons I'd receive for my birthdays. In my grade school years, I saved allowances to buy Walter T. Foster how-to-draw books: clowns, horses, animals, $1.25 each at the time. Through nuns' version of teaching art at Holy Trinity School in Westmont, Illinois, on Friday afternoons I made drawings exactingly copied from pages of coloring books, with no instruction, frustration, but eventually routine success. In my teenage years as a seminarian with the Servites, I was encouraged and inspired by Father Gregory O'Brien who taught me to write, and to Margaret Dagenais who taught the making of liturgical art.
During two years as a monk living in a monastery in Benburb, Ireland, I made collages of paper painted with gouache and drawn over with India ink. George Rouault was my favorite artist at the time. With the 12 pence allotment that we received for semi-annual day trips to Dublin, I bought booklets of art by modern masters and after two years had a collection of about twenty that I recently gave to my granddaughter Emma.
As a monk I studied the philosophies of Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, and others. Although willingly living a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and chanting Psalms in Latin intermittently throughout the day from early morning till late evening, I adopted agnosticism and left the monastery but still cherish that quiet way of being. I finished a degree in art and philosophy at Webster College and happened to graduate during the buildup of the Vietnam War to which I was opposed. A means of avoiding the draft opened: teaching high school art in an all-black inner-city school in St. Louis at the beginning of the black power movement. I supported civil rights but worked in the school as a scared white kid who had grown up in small-town America.
After about four years of work in high schools, I accepted an entry-level faculty position at The Ohio State University, pursued the study of photography, art, art criticism, and aesthetics, earning an MA and a Ph.D. degree. I enjoyed a forty-year career in the Department of Art Education with a joint appointment in the Department of Art. I retired as Professor Emeritus in 2009 and then accepted a final position at the University of North Texas for five years. I continue to write and make art, with the loving encouragement of my wife Susan Michael Barrett, and with her, we enjoy our nine grandchildren.
Bradenton, Florida, 2021
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