Dewey Blocksma: Art With Soul

At night, in the emergency room, he saw automobiles accidents, poisonings, gunshot wounds. He put people back together again. To unwind during the day, he began making toys – flying saucers out of household items, wind machines out of old tin Jell-O molds, finger puppet airplanes, and indestructible foam rubber cars.

"The toys weren’t meant to please the art world," Blocksma says. "They were meant for me to relax. Then it became habit-forming. Compulsive. I couldn’t quit. When I made the toys, I was thinking with my hands. I’m not sure how much the brain was really involved."

The opposite was true of his night job – that was all brain.

When he was grasping what was in front of him in the emergency room he wanted to be empathetic, but his intellectualized response was like an automaton’s: "I’d say, Okay, he’s standing in a puddle of blood. But he’s standing, so he’s only lost this much."The more gun wounds and stabbings he saw, the more he made art, and the sleeping giant inside him awoke.

Then the moment of reckoning: "I decided I’d rather have the kind of day-to-day adventure where you think about life, give into the emotional and are allowed to make mistakes. There’s something about making mistakes that’s important."

He made a decision his father considered a preposterous mistake, which was to give up medicine and become a sculptor. "I cut it off completely," he says of his medical career and his salary. He went to live in semi-obscurity as an artist in Holland, Michigan. He was 36 years old. He had no nest egg.

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