CVG Show: Roy Peratrovich Jr.

Roy Peratrovich Jr. with his "Flight of the Raven" scuplture in Anchorage.

Peratrovich explains the lost wax method of casting while holding a cast of his father, Roy Peratrovich Sr.

Tools used for sculpting clay in Peratrovich's Bainbridge studio.

Plans for the base of a sculpture in Anchorage.

Roy Peratrovich Jr, with bronze busts of his mother and father.
Ken Griffey Jr.
A bronze sculpture of Mariners' fielder Ken Griffey Jr.

Roy Peratrovich Jr.

An artist who sculpts large pieces of public art can encounter obstacles. Finding the proper base material to support a heavy bronze sculpture, then welding dissimilar metals so that the piece doesn’t collapse over time are just a couple of the design problems a sculptor must solve. At times, it can seem more like the task of a bridge engineer than an artist.

It’s a good thing Bainbridge Island sculptor Roy Peratrovich Jr. is a retired bridge engineer. Peratrovich, an Alaska native, was a structural engineer for more than 40 years, working in both Washington and Alaska.

“Not too many people can do what I do, because I’m an engineer and an artist,” he said, explaining the complexities involved in hoisting the huge bronze raven he sculpted onto a 10-foot metal base.

This piece called, “Flight of the Raven,” was installed in Peratrovich Park in downtown Anchorage in 2008.

Yes, you read that right: Roy Peratrovich’s sculpture is in Peratrovich Park. The park is named after his parents, Elizabeth and Roy Peratrovich, who, as members of the Tlinget Indian tribe, fought discrimination against the native Alaskans that was common at the time.

Roy’s mother pushed through the first piece of anti-discrimination legislation in the country in 1945, long before Alaska officially became a state and before the U.S. civil rights movement began.

That’s something to be proud of. Peratrovich’s pride in his parents’ accomplishments is the focus of much of his work. Busts of Elizabeth and Roy Sr. grace the entrance of Peratrovich’s Bainbridge home, and a bronze of Elizabeth also sits in Alaska’s state capitol in Juneau; busts of both parents are in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

Peratrovich reached back one more generation for the inspiration behind his piece “Whale Riders,” which won second place this month at the CVG Show for three-dimensional art.

“Whale Riders” was inspired by a story his grandfather told about a trip he took as a child on a war canoe to settle a dispute with a rival clan. His grandfather rode on the boat’s rocking bow for hundreds of miles in the rough waters off Alaska. The oral history might have ended there, but Roy cast it in bronze. He imagined what kind of dream state the rocking boat might put his grandfather into. He then began thinking about the boat being carried up and down across the sea on the back of a whale.

He had to research the kind of boat his grandfather would have taken that trip in. “The research is good because it gives my brain something to do,” he said.

Pertrovich has been retired since 1999, and the sculpting does keep his brain active. First he had to teach himself how to perfect working with the clay and learn the lost wax process of casting. He is self-taught in all that.

Then he had to figure out something that perplexes many 3-D artists — how to make the piece look interesting from every angle. “I put it off-kilter, making it look like it’s about to fall,” he said. “That gives it energy and excites you.”

As for the more than 40 years of civil engineering that morphed into a second career as a sculptor, Peratrovich says, “…the creative part is the most difficult. The right brain has a little trap door, which opens the creative process. You can get it open, then suddenly it closes on you.”

You can see more of Roy Peratrovich Jr.’s work at his Web site at

This is the last Artful Blogger post on artists whose work appears in the Collective Visions Gallery Show in Bremerton.