Peter Woytuk and art history in Kent
KENT — Peter Woytuk, an acclaimed artist and sculptor whose works are an integral part of Kent’s art history, spoke at the Kent Memorial Library on Saturday, Jan. 25.
The talk began with recollections by Virginia Bush Suttman, who is a Kent native, the president of Kent Affordable Housing) and the widow of Paul Suttman, who has been called one of America’s most distinguished representational sculptors.
The essence of her talk was the enormous effect and contribution of Jacques Kaplan, owner of the Paris New York Kent Gallery, which was housed in the Kent Station, now Kent Pharmacy.
Kaplan lived on Geer Mountain, and was often heard to say, “I’m going to make Kent the art capital of Connecticut.” He succeeded in that goal, gathering a coterie of artists into his circle that includes Joy Brown, Carol Anthony and, of course Paul Suttman and Peter Woytuk. Their work, particularly Woytuk’s monumental sculptures, were fondly remembered by the 100 guests at the talk.
Woytuk, born in 1958 in Minnesota, studied at Kenyon College and came to Connecticut to apprentice with Philip Grausman, another highly regarded sculptor.
Woytuk learned the art and techniques of modeling clay and sand, and casting in bronze.
His own first show was in 1968, and he has been showing ever since with no intention of slowing up.
His works are frequently whimsical and amusing: crows and ravens perched on everything imaginable have been a signature theme. When asked by a guest why the birds are so prominent in his work, Woytuk thought a moment and replied that they were so smart “and spend about 90% of their time just playing.”
Woytuk and Suttman had a chance to work together, resulting in “Crowlaborations”:Woytuk’s birds perched on Suttman’s pieces, often in incongruous pairings.
Always, though, his most visible sculptures are Woytuk’s monumental animals: elephants, horses, sheep and, of course, the bulls. Here in the Northwest Corner his most recognized work is probably “Three Bulls,” in peaceful and majestic repose at the entrance to The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville.
To the great enjoyment of the guests, Woytuk’s talk was largely made up of questions from the crowd and his candid and humorous responses. When asked “Why Thailand?,” which is where his bronzes are cast, he promptly replied “OSHA,” the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. There are very few facilities in the U.S. able to do bronze casting on his scale, and price and regulations would be prohibitive. Thailand, on the other hand, has many facilities capable of doing his massive castings (a single elephant, for example, requires 5,000 pounds of bronze). Someone asked how long it would take to create such a sculpture and he said it takes at least a year. He added that “balance and elegance” are the priorities in his creations.
The guests for the talk had all been given a ticket upon entering, and the talk concluded with Woytuk drawing a ticket number from a basket. Cliff Waldow of Amenia had the winning ticket and received a small sculpture of the “large red hen” that can be seen full-size at Kent’s Good Gallery.
The talk was originally scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 18, following the library’s board meeting. It was postponed by a snowstorm.