49 Voices: Mark Wittteveen of Kodiak

Mark Witteveen of Kodiak standing with a spoon made for his sister. (Photo by Sally Skimin)

This week we’re hearing from artist Mark Wittteveen in Kodiak. Locals may have seen Witteveen’s work around town in the form of metal fish.

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WITTEVEEN: I am a sheet metal sculptor, so I craft mostly marine related stuff — fish and octopus and crab and stuff — out of sheet metal. You end up with a pretty life-like three-dimensional sculpture with lots of depth and motion and color, so it’s kind of a unique medium and it’s really fun.

The only real people doing metal-shaping anymore are people that build, like, custom hot rods or motorcycles. There’s just not a lot of artists out there that are metal shapers. So it’s kinda fun being unique in that way.

Usually I do stuff that’s popular to people wherever I’m selling stuff. Around here, it’s salmon and halibut. And I’m a fisheries biologist, so I spend a lot of time with live fish and really kinda get hung up on the details of the pieces being biologically accurate.

As far as different types of salmon, a lot of it has to do with shape. Different parts are different on salmon. Like the base of the tail on a coho is really thick, and that’s how you identify a coho. And what pigment is on the tail, if it’s silver or spots.

I think fish are interesting just because of their diversity. You look at salmon versus rockfish versus halibut, it’s just a fabulous amount of variety in the fish themselves. And their life histories are really interesting, and how they pave, how they exist in their world.

I think it’s really reflected in how important they are. The economy of fisheries is sort of obvious in a place like Kodiak. And as a recreational outlet for people. But then they really become part of the culture. You see fish in art, fish in subsistence, people putting food on their table. So fish are really kind of all-encompassing in a place like this. It’s hard to not be passionate about them.