So in a family surrounded by love, my mother and father had four more children and my extended family grew. On any given night, we could eat at home or be visiting, grandparents, godparents, cousins, family.
There was a sense of belonging.
There was always also a sense of danger.
My mother complained to my father that I wouldn’t stick up for myself so at an early age he taught me how to box.
As a semi professional boxer, it was just his nature. Being an artist from the start, my intention was more cerebral. I wanted to know why people felt like they had to fight. Why not just sit down and discuss the situation.
After the first couple of fights, I became known as “the Peacemaker”. Something my oldest friend Rosemary reminded me of.
Friends would come to my parents flat when they weren’t home and I would bandage them up and tell them to find another way.
I saw a balance in this small world that I loved. I saw the need for peace and for protection.
My father had worked at Nabisco since he was a teenager before the war. Road weary after the war, he took a job at Nabisco and grew up the corporate ladder. Everyone respected and loved him the way you love a friend.
By the time I was 14, I had been threatened to be kidnapped, attacked by boys from other neighborhoods and my right hand was cut by a jealous boy.
My dad had enough and moved us to the suburbs. He was rising, his family would too.
So I went from nuns giving me art supplies and my favorite neighborhood, to a new world.
In recent years I had been asked by a reporter when had I become an artist. He asked three times. Finally, I interrupted him and told him that I had never become an artist. I was born one.
I drew at the same time that I learned to walk and talk. I made art all throughout grammar school doing special drawings for every assignment. I got higher grades but that wasn’t the incentive. I got through all subjects just so I could get to the art.
When I was ten, my mom brought a few of us to the Chicago Art Institute. I remember it like it was today. I stood there looking at huge paintings painted by Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, Rothko. Kline.... of course I don’t know their names then but I never forgot the images.
I knew I was one of them.
It made sense to me. Blowing up imagery after a war or just plain during life. I felt like my skin was turned inside out and I could feel everything.
I knew then what I know now. Art changes your life. Real art.....
So, when I was 14 at Oak Lawn Community High School I reluctantly took the Home Ec class that my Mother forced me to take (it turns out that I was the worst cook in the family), and bided my time to begin real art classes the next year.
By 15, my art teacher would tell me, all he saw was the top of my head.
Robert Dominiak, my art teacher those three years and still my friend, had graduated from Chicago Art Institute, my total and complete goal.