Ken Hruby was born at a cavalry post in the Black Hills of South Dakota and spent a happy, adventure-filled childhood as an Army brat at a number of posts and camps in the mid-west and on the west coast. Family travel included tours in Japan and Germany where he was exposed to cultural diversity at an early and impressionable age. After completing his secondary education in Tacoma, Washington, he graduated from West Point in l961 with a BS in engineering and an infantry commission . For the following twenty-one years, he served in a wide variety of command and staff positions, including advisor to infantry and ranger battalions in Vietnam and two combat tours on the DMZ in Korea. Upon completion of military service, he attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts where he focused in sculpture and received a prestigious Traveling Scholars Award. His work has been shown in numerous group and solo shows across the nation and is included in several private and public collections, including the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum in Chicago and the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester, MA.
His first solo show, “Mustering Out,” and four more recent shows,”Juggernaut”, “Minefields of Memory”, “Free Fall”, and “Tour of Duty”, were selected by the Boston Globe as “Best Gallery Events” for the years 1989, l995, l997, 1999, and 2001 respectively. He was the recipient of a New England Foundation for the Arts sculpture grant in l995 and received a sculpture grant as a Finalist from the Massachusetts Cultural Council in 1999. Ken teaches at the Museum School, maintains a studio in Boston and lives in Gloucester, MA, where a survey of a decade and a half of his work was featured at the Cape Ann Historical Museum in 2001. “Fire Fight”, a kinetic sculpture installation, was shown at the Boston Sculptors at Chapel Gallery. His many honors include a General Services Administration National Design Award, a National Endowment for the Arts / New England Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, inclusion in the Public Art Network’s National Year in Review on eight different occasions, and numerous commendations for his public art work.
I suppose that “slighted” understates the case for the Vietnam veteran. Our reception by the American society upon return from Southeast Asia was less than hospitable and often openly hostile. Suppression became the natural coping mechanism for us; we never spoke of the war, we only spoke around it, if at all. But the experiences beg for release in some form and the release will surface in one way or another. In my case sculptural images are sparked by the war experience; they arc across the minefield of memory like tracers. They hold me hostage, controlling my waking and sleeping hours, until I deal with them. Sometimes the art flows effortlessly like whistling. Usually not. Some images never do coalesce. I work and rework them and still they remain ephemeral visions like those from my other life as a soldier…those moments when we assembled before the beginning of morning nautical twilight trying to find our way into the known. Now, years later, images form and reform out of the mist of what was reality, steeped in a quarter century of impure memory. They tease and nag. They ebb and flow. I never know where they will lead. When a sculpture ensues, I am as astonished as anyone; if nothing lasting develops, the journey through the minefield transforms me, nonetheless. Sometimes the story has to be told simply for the sake of the telling. But these memories of Vietnam are showing signs of age. They are older now than I was when I served there. Mostly they remain hidden just beneath the surface of consciousness, like mines laid in a rice paddy, ready to explode and echo across the decades when the right pressure is applied. Just what it is that trips them remains a mystery; sometimes a sound, occasionally a word, usually a smell. And, like the mines, these memories are not always where I laid them; they shift and migrate in the bramble of my hippocampus as if the laws of physics and probability have been suspended. It is subtle movement, for the ground and the ground-rules changed when I wasn’t looking.