It is not often that a young artist is proclaimed "the greatest animal sculptor of the Western world in the closing years of the 20th century." This type of bold statement tends to follow an artist, positively or negatively, for many years to come. But such is the opinion of The International Herald of sculptor Peter Woytuk.
Peter, however, is taking it all in stride. He does not even consider himself an animal sculptor, let alone the greatest one in the Western world. The fact remains that Peter is often drawn to certain animal forms and often sculpts them. As he explains, "there are a lot of anthropomorphic human qualities you can suggest through animals. I haven't found that kind of freedom in human figures. He also finds animal subjects ideal for exploring the elements of form, color and texture. It is precisely this masterful combination of form and character that separates Peter’s work from his peers and draws the attention of such a discerning publication as The International Herald.
Born in 1958, Peter Woytuk was submersed at a young age in the architectural properties of form and space - his father was the architect who designed the Citicorp Center in New York. Peter later went on to major in art at Kenyon College in Ohio where his focus was in photography. However, he was not introduced to the formal art of sculpting until he apprenticed with Connecticut sculptor Philip Grausman in the early 1980s. This experience helped Peter develop the technical knowledge and skills needed to transform his artistic vision into sculptural form.
Ultimately Peter found himself fascinated with sculpting the various forms of animals, birds in particular. He has since developed a highly original range of styles that explore a unique sense of volume and suspended motion. His impressionistic ravens, for example, demonstrate remarkable liveliness. "I’ve done some research on them. They spend a good 90 percent of their lives playing because they're so adept at survival,” he says. Peter’s ravens, totaling over 30 individual sculptures, play off the inquisitive, mischievous nature of these birds. Also of note are Peter's abstracted representations of hens. Their brightly patinaed, ovoid shapes are whimsically reminiscent of Easter eggs.
In recent years, Peter has been experimenting with life-size and monumental sculpture. His group of three bulls, in particular, were first selected because he was attracted to the "sprawl of mass displayed by seated and reclining bulls on the farms surrounding his studio. In his interpretation, Peter has somewhat altered their shapes. As he explains, "they became fatter, larger, their necks became thicker. They are shapes that will work as their own thing. They are big, simplified shapes on a large scale, convex, concave masses. Ultimately for Peter, the end result is not only the objects themselves but also the way other people respond to and interact with them. He is pleasantly surprised that they have "become sort of a playground for children. They're inviting and great to climb on, he explains.”
Peter's decision to create large-scale sculpture has brought about an interesting dilemma - where to have such enormous work cast. For his larger sculptures, Peter has been using foundries in China and Thailand. According to Peter, these facilities, which are used to "working on twenty-foot Buddhas," have the ability to pour large-large-scale sculpture. They're almost unique in their capacity to melt and pour a very large amount of metal. The resulting product is finely crafted under the scrupulous direction of the artist.
In the tradition of historical animal sculptors, Peter has chosen to keep his bronze editions small - usually limited to just eight castings. This break from the current trend to produce work in large editions further distinguishes Peter from many of his peers. Peter continues to set himself apart by creating work that creatively challenges his and our interpretation of animal form. Currently his sculpture is displayed in the collections of Dean Witter Reynolds in New York, Diane Von Furstenburg in New York, the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut, Kenyon College in Ohio, and the North Carolina Zoological Park in Ashboro, among others.