Nader Vakili working on Flight of the Nighthawks
Nader working on Flight of the Nighthawks

Nader G. Vakili was born in the Persian Gulf port of Bushir, in the state of Persia, Iran, in 1927. He came to the United States as a student in 1948, hoping to become a surgeon. Among his pre-med courses, he encountered genetics, which eventually changed the direction of his pursuits. He earned his Ph.D. on the genetics of pathogenicity in microorganisms at Purdue University in 1958. During his Ph.D. studies, besides caring for his growing family with his wife, he would relax by carving small statues out of wood and bracket mushrooms which he found in a ravine near their apartment.

A job to study disease resistance in bananas with the Chiquita Banana Company, headquartered in Honduras, dispatched him to the humid tropics to collect a banana gene bank. The exposure to the beauty of the undisturbed tropical jungles and his dismay at observing enormous old trees being cut down induced him to recreate some of the images that he had seen. Whenever he saw cut wood that interested him, he would ask if anyone minded his taking it. Fortunately, the answer was always, “No.” As his wood collection grew, his wood carving pastime became an established part of his life. The strong tradition of Persian poetry and literature he experienced in his youth has had a profound influence on his art. After retirement from the USDA in 1996, he has devoted most of his time to sculpting.

Nader G. Vakili’s sculptures have been presented in the Fort Pierce Reporter, Des Moines Register, Ames Tribune, Lake City Reporter, Gainesville Sun, and Orlando Sentinel. They have been shown, in both solo and group formats, in art shows, galleries, and museums in Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Fort Pierce, Gainesville, and Lake City, Florida; San Juan and Ponce, Puerto Rico; Ames and Mason City, Iowa; and Montclair, New Jersey.