On September 13, in front of a capacity crowd, Curator Constance Lewallen asked Martin Puryear about his early influences and art training. Speaking of his experience teaching in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone from 1964 to 1966, Puryear said: "Living in a society that was preindustrial for the most part, where many didn't even have electricity, opened my eyes enormously, to see from a different perspective things that I had taken for granted, assumptions I had made about the world....Having lived among people who were able to be incredibly productive and imbue what they did with amazing spirit and investment of skill and dedication to an end result was very instructive for me....I was able to say to myself, 'I have my hands and the tools that I have, and that's where I will start.' "I had begun to work with wood when I was in junior high school and high school. In college I had actually built a couple of guitars, made boats, and made attempts at making furniture with no particular tools or skill, or wherewithal to get tools or skill, in my father's basement shop. My father was very handy and, out of necessity rather than calling, bought some basic tools and made the basic furniture in our house. "In Sierra Leone, the craftspeople impressed me more than the art I encountered in Africa. Our village would occasionally be visited by traders who would come with a huge bag, or a tarp pulled up into a big bag, which would often be carried by a very little boy. They would knock at your door, come in, and open up this huge sack on your floor. It would be full of art, and even then, in the sixties, it was what we would call airport art - art made for the tourist trade. I didn't buy a single thing. I felt even if it was authentic, it was something that was part of their life, their ritual, however magnetic it would be for me as a visual person. It would be like buying a chalice out of a Catholic church. What was accessible to me was the craft, the products of that world, and the people who made them. I got to know the men known as carpenters, but who were actually cabinetmakers and joiners. There was this one man in the town who furnished our school; he built all the desks, all the chairs. Just driving past his shop on the way to and from school, you'd see chairs lined up in front of the place just one chair deep. In the morning you'd come and see two chairs out in front; by lunchtime when you'd go back there would be four chairs out front. There wasn't a machine in the place, just a bunch of men in their late teens and early twenties with abdominal muscles that were like washboards, because they were just constantly using the hand saw and hand plane, chopping and cutting. The work was not flawless but it was functional and very sound."