Fort Myers is about to add a new public artwork to its 45-piece collection. Named Marks and Brands, the 5-piece sculpture will call attention to the debt Fort Myers owes to the cattlemen who built the city from the scraps of a picked-over, abandoned Civil War fort in the last half of the 19th century.
The new installation will consist of one large three-dimensional ferrous metal sculpture called Stacked Brands that will be located in a water feature in the courtyard of the new Fort Myers Regional Library on First and Royal Palm, and four bronze relief panels containing the imprints of cattle hooves. The panels will be inserted in the sidewalk running along First Street and possibly McGregor Boulevard to let viewers know that these thoroughfares were once a cattle trail that connected pastures in Fort Thompson and Fort Odgen to cow pens and shipping wharves in Punta Rassa.
The man behind Marks &Brands is California sculptor Peter Mitten. He was chosen by the Fort Myers Public Art Committee from a field of three finalists and 112 applicants. Mitten has been making and exhibiting sculptural ideas, drawings, and architectural design on a commissioned basis for more than 35 years.
After receiving an MFA in sculpture in 1976 from Southern Illinois University School of Art and Design, Mitten moved to California for a college teaching position at Point Loma University. Launching his sculpting career at the same time, he quickly received favorable critical reviews and several awards, including “Best In Sculpture Division” at the 1982 Southern California Expo. In 1989, Peter moved to Boston, where he received a Pollock Krasner Foundation Grant to continue studio endeavors until his return to southern California in 1992.
Among the public art pieces he has completed are installations at the San Diego County Library (Grove Canopy, fence and gate in cut and welded steel, 56′ x 10′ x 4″ – 2010), the Mt. San Jacinto College Library in Menifee, California (Polyhedron Stretch, painted wood – 2010), the UCSD Mathematics Department in La Jolla, California (Polyhedron Cloud, stainless steel – 2005), the Music Department at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego (Centenary Passage, cast bronze and granite, 120″ x 96″ x 96″ – 2002), the Escondido Transit Center (Hekkilk, cast, pigmented concrete, 96″ x 240″ x 168″ – 2000) and the Rapid Transit Center in Plano, Texas (Stele of Plano, right, cast bronze, twelve separate 48″ x 32″ sections 48″ x 32″ x 2″ – 1993), as well as in Belmont, Massachusetts and Prescott Valley, Arizona.
Mitten’s work has been exhibited at the San Diego Botanical Gardens in Encinitas and by the Santa Ysabel Art Gallery in San Jacinto, California. His most recent one-person exhibition was in 2010 at Yuma Art Center in Yuma, Arizona.
“My work has been inspired by the hard surfaces, landscape and water drainage patterns in the southwest United States,” states Mitten. With a background in cast metals, he has interpreted canyons, valleys, rock outcroppings and distinctive areas along wilderness trails through small, medium and large-scale cast and fabricated metal, bronze, aluminum and iron, as well as granite and painted steel and wood in sizes ranging from desktop to 20 feet in height. Peter’s recent work explores modular sculptural interpretations of micro and macroscopic systems.
Peter teaches life sculpture and three dimensional design at Mt. San Jacinto College in Menifee, and he remains involved in curriculum and teaching for the Oak Lake Art Center in Julian, California.
Mitten will be in town from October 20 to October 25 to oversee the installation of his sculptural centerpiece, Stacked Brands, at the new library. For more information, please contact Public Art Liaison Donna J. Lovegrove at 239-321-7217.