Artist Conversation with Mark Pettegrow

Tripod ©2011 Mark Pettegrow bronze, steel

This past Sunday was the third and final Artist Conversation held in conjunction with the 2012 Art of the State exhibition. Not only was it the final event, but it was the closing event of this year’s show. They are planning on having these free form lectures again next year and I once again highly recommend getting to at least one of them if you are anywhere near Central PA next summer. I’ve enjoyed every one of them I’ve been to.

This time the speaker was bronze sculptor Mark Pettegrow. I spoke with him individually a little about his process since it is both similar and completely different from the metalwork that I do. His originals are either plaster or wax that are then cast in bronze and chemically patinaed to finish them. He has recently been playing around with imaging software to alter his designs and lead him in new directions, but the jury is still out on whether or not using the computer to make his work will become a reality. It is hard for people who are used to making things with their hands to let go and let a computer do the work for you. But I digress…

When Mark spoke about his work he mentioned influences from other sculptors like Brancusi, ancient Greek myths and objects, and the use of edge and form to draw your eye around his pieces. He strives to make work that straddles the line between ancient and contemporary, archaic and modern. This spoke to me because I feel the same way in many respects about my own work. He also mentioned the reoccurance of similar forms in many of his pieces and how while he is finishing one piece he is already planning the next one. Each piece kind of flows into the next one.

Mark speaking about Shayla Marsh’s ceramic sculpture and its hidden message.

The piece he had in Art of the State, Tripod, is one of his pieces that is all about the form. Because of this he kept an even, smooth patina over the piece so that the viewer could focus on the shape of the metal. Other works of his use more texture and contrast to highlight other aspects of the work. He showed us a variety of other pieces he’s made, including one that was commissioned for a home and featured on HGTV (Aspen 2.) Another piece, Perihelion, was inspired by the myth of Icarus, a theme he keeps returning to in his work.

After we discussed his piece and his process, we went through the exhibition and heard his take on some of the other pieces. He pointed out a few that focused on decay (you know I loved those) including the photograph I mentioned in the post about the first Artist Conversation this summer. It was wonderful hearing another artist’s perspective on these pieces and how his process works. I never get tired of seeing how others create.