The first thing that I remember clearly as a child is my uncle Joe, then dating my aunt Lois, putting numbered dots on a sheet of paper. He asked me to sequentially connect the dots with a pencil line starting with number one until I reached the highest number. I wasn’t sure what was going on at first, but with lots of help this 4 year old was delighted to see a bunny rabbit emerge with the last number!
I retain the same sense of excitement today whenever I start a work of art. In fact the whole sequence of events taking place as a young child remains an accurate metaphor for the way I still begin an art work; uncertainty, something taking over the process, and a surprise emerging. But I jump way ahead of myself!
The bunny rabbit kid had lifetime lessons ahead to live and learn that no precocious child could ever anticipate. Being a self acknowledged introvert, I am still shy and most comfortable in one-on-one situations and discussing topics with which I am familiar.
I was living in East St. Louis, IL when I started to elementary school in 1948. East St. Louis was then a recognized ghetto with all of the accompanying money crops; drugs, prostitution, shootings, gambling and other mob rackets. School was very rough with fighting and physical survival on a daily basis. From this very stressful childhood experience emerged a survivor mentality with street smarts. What I learned in the back alleys has turned out to be a positive at times in my later life when things did go wrong, as you will see.
Fortunately for this overly sensitive child, I moved to Benton, AR when I was nine years old and my life changed dramatically. Instead of city streets, there were deep woods and the free flowing Saline River to eventually canoe on for many decades. I couldn’t believe my new world. People weren’t threatening and I could hunt and fish and explore new areas eagerly. I played sports in junior high and high school, and read adventure books avidly.
I was a rebel and I challenged authority, which kept me swimming up the proverbial river until this very day. Despite all, I did the responsible things to prepare myself for the future. I paid my own way through engineering and MBA programs at the University of Arkansas, in part by being a dormitory counselor and working odd jobs. During this period I wrote a lot of leisure time poetry, explored caves and was the editor of the “Arkansas Engineer” magazine and was in the Student Senate. In graduate school I married Judith, my first wife of 31 years. She taught science at Elkins, AR, then in Bel Air, MD and later still at Harmony Grove in Benton, AR for many years.
After graduation, I was posted to Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD as a first lieutenant in the US Army and instructed ordinance career officers in math modeling and computers during the Vietnam War from 1967-69. This was a stressful time to be in the military due protracted political turbulence, and mounting death toll. A morality and morale issue affected both the military and general society equally at the time. After military service, I took a job with Alcoa in Benton, AR, bought a house and started a family. Ashley was born in 1970 and Brian in 1973 and Judith stayed home to be a full time mother. The GI bill allowed me to attend post graduate school in International Studies and Language. This was a fortunate experience because in a world of political turmoil to come, I had a ringside seat and yet could see the big picture.
My career with Alcoa began in engineering and evolved through various management positions into technical marketing. The last half of my career was spent traveling extensively around Europe, Asia and North America developing chemical markets with new customers. Alcoa was an educating and exciting career especially with the world exposure.
It was during this world travel period that I got back in touch with my art side. I was fortunate to be able to visit art museums like the Prado, Hermitage, Louvre, National Galleries in London and Washington, DC, Metropolitan, National Palace Museum in Taipei, Chicago Museum of Art, Ueno Museum in Tokyo and countless other fantastic museums. In lull periods, I attended all the lectures and guided tours that I had time for and started making plans to someday take this passion to a new level of self actualization, but not yet.
I was on business in China (Taipei) during the Tiananmen Square freedom protests, and in Germany (Ludwigshafen) when the wall came down. These were very exciting political times to be with the natives of their country at a major historically defining moment.
In 1996, I was in Oaxaca during a civil insurrection in which 9 people died, and what did I do? I sought out the local artists and bought all the protest art and banners I could find and took over a thousand pictures of the people and met with a member of the local peace commission, a fellow artist. Needless to say, my activity with the protesting artists attracted the attention of local government authorities. I think I was followed all the way to the airport ticket counter line by a belligerent government agent before the flight out of Oaxaca. I think that my early childhood street smarts of living in a dangerous intercity environment has made me comfortable being in a fluid environment of risk later in life. For me Oaxaca was like a severe lightning storm, the flashes are frightening with a lot of noise, but the visual experience cannot be missed, even when electrical probes are running down your back, what energy!
I started my own business when my wife, Judith said “why don’t you find something that takes advantage of your business background”. So in 1981, I created a real estate management company, Bean Management Services, Inc. and acquired several properties which I still own and manage today. However I have on-site managers and a bookkeeper to take care of daily operations. I have overall responsibility which amounts to a part time job that I can do from anywhere in the world with today’s cell phones and laptops.
After our two children, Ashley and Brian, started to school, Judith went back to a distinguished teaching career, including the national Tandy Award for Outstanding Teachers. Additionally scholastic scholarships in her name are awarded each year by the Arkansas Science Teachers Association to outstanding science students in the state. During this period of raising children, traveling for Alcoa and starting a business, we were all extremely busy. We canoed with the kids, camped-out and I coached Brian’s basketball and soccer teams and Judith mentored and ran the kids all over town for their other activities. We were the typical suburban family, until Judith contracted terminal breast cancer when she was in her early fifties. It was a difficult event for the whole family and caused me to immediately take an early retirement from Alcoa after a 28 year career to care for her.
After the shock of her death, I reevaluated my life and seriously took up art as a full time passion. I went back to school as a studio art major and took many classes and workshops. During my business and personal travels, I admired the special awareness and visual sense of artists and found that their interpretations uniquely reflect their countries cultural and spiritual energy and helped me understand their history and society. Likewise in art, I have found my own spiritual and creative release and a visual way to communicate with others. My personal playground includes sculpting, photography, drawing and painting. I have also found teaching art to be a rewarding experience and teach in the southern regional area.
My time these days is split between studios in W. Palm Beach, FL and Little Rock, AR. I do cherish the art world and the other inspiring artists that reside therein. I think my life experiences have prepared me for my art work: sometimes sensuous, dark or beautiful. It is what I have experienced (intercity childhood, military, death, divorce, but an overall fantastic life. It is what also drives my creativity side.
My children, now medical doctors, Ashley and Brian Bean, daughter-n-law Tami Bean, grandsons Anthony, and Andrew are in Little Rock. My mother, Lorraine, lives in a nursing home nearby and I manage her affairs since my father passed in 2006. I am very proud of the whole family. We all get together every Sunday for dinner and sometimes the kids stay over with me. Our family life is rich with sharing and love, there is nothing more that I can ask for!