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Robert Indiana was born on September 13, 1928 in New Castle, Indiana. Soon after his birth, he was adopted by Earl and Carmen Clark of Indianapolis. His father worked in the auto industry on and off throughout Robert’s childhood which caused the family to move often to follow jobs.
Whether it was moving so much as a young child or the pollution in the air caused by the auto industry jobs, Robert was a sickly child and was deemed too ill and underweight to begin school with his peers. He was forced to wait a year before beginning first grade. While in school, his teacher recognized his artistic talent and nurtured his creative side.
Unfortunately, Robert’s home life did not calm any as he got older. In 1938, his parents divorced and they both remarried other partners. They shared custody of Robert which contributed to the isolating feeling of always moving during his childhood. The upheaval in his home life didn’t stop him from excelling with his artistic talent however.
In 1941, Robert won first prize in the county’s essay competition. He then attended Arsenal Tech for their art program during his last two years of high school.
After completing his schooling, Robert joined the Air Force in 1946. While enlisted, Robert became interested in typing so he attended a course. He then taught a typing class on base and began a base newspaper. After being discharged from the military in September of 1949, Robert attended the Art Institute of Chicago Illinois . In early 1953, Robert began showing some of his work in exhibitions. Mid-year, Robert won several prizes for his work and ended up travelling to England where he attended University of Edinburgh.
Throughout the 1950’s, Robert traveled to different exhibits and schools to work with fellow artists. He applied his art to many different mediums and also taught classes after moving to New York.
In 1958, he changed his name to Robert Indiana. His series of “herms” as he called them, began in 1959 when he started salvaging pieces of wood from his building and painting large circles on them. In 1960, he began adding words to the art works. This is ultimately, where his famous work “LOVE” got its start. In 1968, Robert contracted a Gallery to begin making tapestries and ultimately area rugs from this series.
Even now, in 2017, Robert Indiana works tirelessly to bring his art to the masses. Since 2001, when he witnessed the events of 9/11 from his window, some would say Robert has doubled his efforts to spread the ideals of peace and love through his art. Installing structures as far away as Japan, there’s no question that Robert’s work has touched some aspect of most everybody’s lives.