It was an auspicious beginning to an artistic life revolving around metals, gears, wheels, and spheres.
Petrakovitz’s engineering of steel, bronze, and aluminum is a nod to his passion for Michigan’s industrial history; many of his hulking works are found statewide, including the Michigan Legacy Art Park at Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville.
Growing up in the Motor City during the heyday of the automotive industry, Petrakovitz developed an avid interest in industrial machinery. He says he sees the raw beauty in their functions and their forms. He features gears, wheels and levers prominently in his creations.
Petrakovitz works most days in his roomy, well-lit workshop in rural Wexford County. He is constantly adding to the assortment of more than a dozen metal creations that dot his acreage southeast of Cadillac.
Petrakovitz is currently working on a public sculpture for Elk Rapids. He recently put down his welding equipment and took a few minutes to share his story with the Northern Express.
HOW I GOT STARTED
I was born in Detroit and started out studying engineering in college, but took a sculpture class and it changed the course of my studies and career. I kind of fell in love with it. The first sale I ever made was as a student, I sold a small sculpture to Mrs. Edsel Ford.
I went to the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit and studied ceramics. I met my wife (painter Joyce Petrakovitz) there. We started a ceramics studio together after graduation and made our living as potters for the next 25 years.
We sold our clay pieces at art fairs and in galleries across the country. In 1998 we retired from the traveling art fair life. Joyce took up painting and I returned to being a sculptor.
THE STORY BEHIND MY ART, MY INSPIRATION
Most of my inspiration comes from what I knew growing up in Detroit. It was the automotive industry. The automotive, mechanical themes. I enjoy spending time exploring in old barns, scrap and junkyards looking for weathered and rusted old metal parts that retain a hint of their original use.
Sometimes I employ that original function, other times I simply allude to it, such as wheels that do not move or gears that do not turn. Or I just ignore the original use and let the part stand on its own strength and uniqueness.
WORK I’M MOST PROUD OF
I’ve done a series of small abstract works in wax that I’m proud of. Some of those have been cast into bronze.
YOU WON’T BELIEVE
I biked almost 2,500 miles in 2013. I rode the White Pine trail from Cadillac to Grand Rapids and that was fun. I usually try to ride 25 to 30 miles a day.
MY FAVORITE ARTIST
Like my art has evolved, so has my favorite sculptor. If I had to choose now, I’d say Richard Hunt is a favorite. Rodin and Michaelangelo are up there too. Among other artists I admire are Jerry Gates and Howard and Nancy Crisp.
ADVICE FOR ASPIRING ARTISTS
You have to have a real passion for it, the attitude that you have to do this. If you have that drive, then go do it.
MY WORK CAN BE SEEN/PURCHASED
Since most of my sculpture is large in scale, it is easier to make sales from my home. So if anyone is interested in seeing what I have, they should contact me directly at email@example.com or go to Gallery Fifty in Traverse City. There are some smaller sculptures there.