Sitka Fellow to create art gallery on campus

In this Monday, Aug. 7, 2012, photo, sculptor Pete Moran poses in his studio space at the Yaw Art Center on the SJ Campus in Sitka, Alaska. Moran is one of eight Sitka Fellows at work on the SJ Campus this summer. (AP Photo/Daily Sitka Sentinel, James Poulson)

SITKA — Pete Moran has moved from a world of solutions and equations to one of abstractions and creativity.

“How did I end up an engineer in the first place? I don’t really know the answer to that question,” Moran said. “It seemed like the obvious thing to do. Asking how did that happen is part of my art practice.”

Moran, who is from upstate New York, is one of the eight Sitka Fellows spending seven weeks at the Sheldon Jackson campus. After obtaining an engineering degree from Cornell University, Moran turned his attention to art and earned an MFA in sculpture from Yale.

“I wanted some other things,” Moran said of his change of direction from engineering. “It wasn’t really what I was meant to do.

Moran is in the process of assembling an art gallery on the campus that eventually will host his work and, he hopes, the work of future artists of Sitka.

Moran’s art focuses on American working culture. Moran himself started working at age 12, and likes to reflect the idea of the American worker in his art.

“The contemporary mythology about the working culture in America is really strong,” he said. “And I like to reflect that in my work.”

Moran stumbled into the opportunity to sail to Sitka from Juneau with an old fisherman and explorer and the trip helped get him in the right frame of mind for Sitka. Alaska, he said, was a logical choice for the work he wanted to do.

“I thought, if I want to go see what working people are up to I should just go to Alaska, and I also don’t like warm temperatures so that worked out,” he said.

The program has been equally satisfying, Moran said.

“This is a really unique program and it’s barking up the right tree,” Moran said.

He said he has found the various disciplines and personalities, both in the program and around Sitka, have been extraordinarily valuable. He hopes all these influences can help broaden the reach of his art and make it more accessible to more people.

“It would be interesting, but also too bad, if my work only mattered to other people who were also making sculpture,” Moran said.

Moran’s interest in engineering hasn’t vanished. He still finds printing presses and old machinery interesting, though he sees them from an artistic perspective rather than a mechanical one.

“The funny thing with art is that I’m not really the best at it. It wasn’t what I was meant to do but I really like it,” he said. “I guess my only option is to just kind of be bad at the thing I really like.”

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