Jonas Perkins’s early life wasn’t easy. His dad was a Pullman porter on the railroad lines and his mother was a housekeeper at a mental institution. Jonas attended a parochial school because his parents wanted him to “be somebody,” but he spent much of his time after school running from gangs in the tough Chicago suburb where he grew up.
“I wore a coat and tie to class, so they wanted to beat me up,” he explained.
After stints at the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago and in Mexico at the famed Instituto Allende Art Academy, he set up shop under a tent in Fredericksburg. And that’s where we first found him back in 1994.
A group of Korean War veterans told us we had to meet the man they had commissioned to create a monument to honor all those who fought in the war, especially those who didn’t return. Jonas Perkins, they told us, would memorialize those heroes in bronze.
We followed the artist through the creation of that special piece, which would eventually have a home in downtown San Antonio, along with several other Jonas Perkins originals. During that time we learned that bronze was not his only medium. He did portraits, ceramics, construction . . . and life.
“The house I live in is art,” he said during a tour of his Hill Country property.
Indeed it is, with a roof made of twelve-foot satellite dishes so he could grow grass on top, a mixed-media approach with a green message.
“My philosophy of life is simple living and high thinking,” he said.
We have been back to visit with Jonas many times in the almost thirty years since we first met. Luckily for all of us, he is still creating today.