Light of the raven
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:13 PM
"Roy Peratrovich learns on the fly.An Alaska native, he played the first football game he ever saw - as a high school senior.From tackling his first engineering problems to founding the Architects and Engineers Insurance Company, Peratrovich admits to jumping into projects without knowing exactly what he's doing. And as a sculptor, his artwork is no exception.It's what they call spatial art, he said, gesturing to a bronze sculpture of otters. I learn these terms from other artists - but I appreciate that you have to be aware of how you fill the space.A former civil engineer and member of the Tlingit's Raven clan, Peratrovich said he began sculpting because when I retired, my wife said I'd better do something.Four years later, the artist's Bainbridge Island home is decorated in bronze and pressed paper sculpture, and he has sold 55 pieces.Like other things in his past, Peratrovich dug right in.He began molding clay, and after friend Jeff Owen fired his first piece, Peratrovich felt dissatisfied. Owen offered to do it in bronze. The new medium was love at first sight.I liked the appearance, Peratrovich said. Bronze gave life to the piece by comparison, though some fired clays are very beautiful.Peratrovich begins a piece with a polystyrene core and builds around it with a high-wax, high-oil clay. Relatives, otters and other animals feature prominently in his subject matter, and each piece has a story.Fallen Raven, for example, features a wolf that has come upon a raven figure on the ground, broken off the top of a totem pole. According to Tlingit legend, Raven stole the sun, moon and stars in boxes that once belonged to a chief, bringing light to the world. The wolf senses the raven figure is of significance, and is trying to raise it up.Peratrovich's mother Elizabeth was of the Raven clan. His father was from the Wolf tribe. His mother was instrumental in the passage of America's first anti-discrimination bill, in Alaska, 1945. She gave her life to Indian rights and civil rights, Peratrovich said, yet another way in which Raven brought light to the world.Peratrovich showed an early interest in art, experimenting with oils at age 10.But when I got to high school, I found out the girls like guys in sports, he said. So I dropped the one and picked up the other.Peratrovich doesn't know what his next projects will be, though he intends to keep sculpting. His work is featured from the entrances of Alaskan government buildings to the Smithsonian. It's a thrill, he said, just to be creating. "