ROBERT INDIANA
(b. 1928)

Robert Indiana in his studio
When the mailman has a letter for you, how does he know which house is yours?

If your backpack gets lost in the locker room, what shows that it belongs to you?

During the weekend, how does your best friend call you?

On a busy street, when do you know where it's safe to cross?

Street signs and house numbers, phone numbers and initials…you use important numbers and letters everyday. When your backpack gets lost in the locker room, a tag with your name on it tells everyone that it is yours.

If your best friend has a secret to tell, she knows she can talk to you by dialing your telephone number. On a busy street, a crossing sign lets you know where it's safe to cross.

Words and numbers are important to Robert Indiana, too. He has turned them into a language of his own. He uses them to tell you what he's seen, what he's done, and what he thinks.

His artwork looks like road signs you might see along the highway. Sometimes they tell you about his life—the roads he's traveled and what's happened to him along the way. Sometimes they show what he enjoys, like poems and surprising stories. And sometimes they encourage us to do what he thinks we should—like "EAT" and "LOVE."

"Some people like to paint trees," he said. "I like to paint love. I find it more meaningful than painting trees."

Many people must agree with him.

Look closely at the envelope addressed to "You". Does the stamp look familiar?

In 1973, the U.S. Postal Service put Robert Indiana's design on the very first "LOVE" stamp. Over three hundred and twenty million of these stamps were printed. Mail trucks carried letters with this small "LOVE" sign on them along highways all across the country.

Every time a letter with this stamp on it was delivered, Robert Indiana's message was being spread a little further!

COULD YOU GUESS THAT . . .

…Robert Indiana was born in Indiana? His parents' last name was "Clark." When he changed his name, Robert Indiana was finding another way to show how important words are to him.

…a lot of his childhood was spent along busy highways? Indiana remembers the neon signs and game machines from the roadside restaurants where his mother worked, and he puts their shapes into his artwork. He also likes to use the colors of his father's gasoline-company truck—red and green—with the blue and white of the sky and clouds behind it.

…he found some old brass letter stencils when he moved his art studio into an old warehouse? The stencils inspired him to use words in his paintings, and he likes painting letters that look as if they've been printed.

…Robert Indiana thinks that most people never stop to think about how beautiful words and numbers are? He said that he thinks his job as an artist is "…to make words and numbers very, very special."

Robert Indiana
LOVE