How My Dad Influenced My Art Practice.

My father has had a great influence on my life like most parents. He taught me a work ethic that lead to self employment at an early age, I was 26. But more than that he influenced how I look at the world and interpret that with my unique visual language. This is how my dad influenced my art practice.

Alan David Henigman was born in Saskatoon in 1928. He settled in Calgary in the 1950’s and bought a lot in the community of Millican Ogden in the south east. The land already had the foundation of a house and that’s it.

Not being wealthy man and no house plans he did his own design build. The story goes that he would purchase building materials pay cheque to pay cheque. He would problem solve as he went along.

Being an appliance repair man for General Electric, he also moonlighted by reconditioning old washers, dryers, fridges, and the like.  His work shop was in the basement and attached garage and he was always picking up broken appliances to fix and resell. Word spread because his repairs lasted. What he couldn’t fix he recycled, used for parts or as my list below mentions, repurposed.

Some of my favourite examples of his repurposing are…

  • Using copper tubing, more than likely left over from the plumbing, for the kitchen cupboard pulls.
  • Salvaging and using old oven doors from his appliance repairs and construction a window for our back porch.
  • The ceiling in the living room was a wood vaulted ceiling made from salvaged wood doors.
  • The towel rack in the bathroom was a salvaged oven door pull.
  • The front stairs to our home was a design of his own and he constructed and pored the concrete himself.
  • Not having enough siding to complete the length of the front porch railing he cut a detail to finish the shortage.
our-house-me-dad

My Dad and me at the BBQ slash fire pit he designed and built in the 60’s well before it was fashionable to have an outdoor cookery.

My Dad is the very definition of “function before form”. The most important thing to him was that it work.  The ascetic of our home was my Mother’s territory. My Dad taught me to look at my surroundings and the objects in it with new eyes. It’s not just a piece of copper tubing, it’s a door pull. It not just a window for an oven door, it’s actually a window for anything.

So when you see objects used in my work now you know why.


Do you have an unsung person that influenced your art? Who was it and how did they influence you?

I gratefully acknowledge Ann Hart Marquis who interviewed me about my work and really got me thinking. As a result this blog post was born. Thank You Ann for making me think.

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