Don’t let the curators of The Essential Robert Indiana exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) fool you. Indiana’s greatest work is not among the paintings hanging on the wall or the giant number sculptures scattered throughout the museum or even the HOPE print used by the 2008 Barack Obama presidential campaign that hangs at the end of the exhibit.

While the world celebrates him as a meticulous Pop artist with a recognizable use of color, line, and shape, I will think of Indiana chiefly as a poet—the words and other elements in his compositions carefully chosen; a novelist—each print incorporating not just a scene but a collection of experiences; and a memoirist—revealing significant moments from his own life.

“Almost everything I’ve done has some relationship to something in my life,” Indiana, born Robert Clark, said in 2009. “I am painting and writing my own history.” Even his name, which he changed in honor of his home state, evokes a past which both inspires him and haunts him.

My husband and I encountered Robert Indiana long before we decided to take in the exhibit on a recent Saturday. Shortly after we were married, on a visit to the same museum, we posed for a “selfie” in front of Indiana’s iconic LOVE statue, joining our story with his, like hundreds of couples and friends and families before us.