Martin Puryear was born in Washington, D.C., and he spent his youth studying practical crafts, learning how to build guitars and furniture. He received a B.A. from The Catholic University of America in 1963 and was a Peace Corps volunteer in Sierra Leone from 1964 to 1966. In the late 1960s, he studied printmaking in Sweden and assisted a master cabinet-maker. He entered the Yale University graduate sculpture program in 1968.
His first solo exhibition was held in the late 1970s at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. In the 1980s he participated in two Whitney Biennials and received a Guggenheim Fellowship. He received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1989.
In 2003, he served on the Jury for the World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition.
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art presented a 30-year survey of Puryear’s work in 2008-2009. The presentation included “a special installation in the Haas Atrium including Ladder for Booker T. Washington (1996), made from a 36-foot-long split sapling, and Ad Astra (2007), a 63-foot-tall work that rises to the museum’s fifth-floor bridge.
(taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Puryear)