When I was at art school, a lot of art education is about art being a means of self-expression, and as an 18-year-old I didn't know if I had a huge amount I wanted to express. It was a big moment when I decided I wanted to shift the emphasis or the intention of my art from something I disgorged myself upon and something that actually fed me or made me see the world or understand the world.
I went to school in drag, in art school and my day was completely different because everybody thought I was a chick. You should see me as a chick. So I went as a girl, as like an experiment and it worked really well and everyone was really nice to me but I couldn't talk obviously...you know train conductors were really cool to me on my commute...HA! I looked hot as a chick!
I graduated in June 1948 and then went in the fall to the art school. I stayed with my cousins on Seventeenth Street in the beginning, and later had my own apartment very near there and was able to walk to the Art Institute on Elmwood Avenue. The school had a faculty of local artists - Jeanette and Robert Blair, James Vullo who were well known in the area. It was a school that I think thrived on returning GIs, as many schools did at that time. It was a very informal program - but it was professional.
I got into architecture because I was searching for a way to produce in the world. I went to art school and thought I would do it through art, but I realized very quickly that I was interested in the social ramifications of form making. So buildings became the vehicle and fulfilled that thing. That satisfied me when I produced them. I decided this is what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
I went to art school, but I didn't last because in those days you couldn't take comics as a course. And they weren't even teaching you to draw real things, they were really into abstracts, and I was not into abstracts, so art school and I did not work out.
This project started nearly twenty years ago as an assignment in my typography class at art school. Students were encouraged to see letters beyond their dull, practical functionality. We played with their unique shapes and tinkered with their infinite possibilities. The challenge was hard, so the reward of “cracking” a word felt great. This became a lifelong project for me.