If you have ever driven by a water tower on your way to the Washington State Fair, strolled past a mural in downtown Lewiston, or visited the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City, Oregon, you will have seen the work of Peter Goetzinger. A Native of Lewiston, Idaho, Peter attended the University of Idaho and Utah State University, where he received a degree in Illustration with a minor in Graphic Design. He lived for several years in Seattle, where he was an active member of AMBP (Artist Made Building Parts) and served on the selection committee for the Seattle Arts Commission. His stamp on that city can be seen at the downtown REI, Seattle Children’s Hospital and Sea-Tac International Airport.
Today he resides near Sandpoint,Idaho, with his wife, artist Kelly Price, and their son, Orion. His current focus is “the wild and wooly world of public art: chasing and receiving commissions to create art for public spaces” as well as designing and creating works for medical institutions and the private sector. He serves on the Sandpoint Arts Commission where he is working with the city and a group of local artists to create a long-term vision for public art.
You can usually find Peter in his spacious workshop next to his hexagonally shaped, window-filled house. The woodstove is kept busy here, where the densely wooded lot sees more snow, moose and deer than Sandpoint, about twelve miles south. When he’s not in his shop, Peter can be found playing the piano, on nearby Schweitzer Mountain, or searching for treasures at the local dump.
Peter, thank you for speaking with Healing Hamlet about your ongoing artistic journey! Can you please tell us what draws you to create art?
I’ve been creating art as long as I can remember. When I was little, my brother and I would spend hours drawing through reams of paper on Saturday mornings. Fortunately, my parents valued my artistic spirit and never attempted to douse that flame. There never really seemed to be a question in my mind as to what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I was talking recently to someone about why I’ve chosen art as my life’s pursuit and I didn’t have a “why” answer. I said it’s just what I have to do – kind of my default setting. If I were to create a mission statement I guess I’d have to say that one of my deepest goals is to add beauty to the world.
Your art has been incorporated into medical offices and hospitals. How can art or the creation of art promote healing?
In the medical realm, “adding beauty” also translates into creating meaningful distractions. At Children’s Hospital, for example, I’ve created pieces that are meant to compliment their surroundings and be interesting or pleasing to the eye. But they also serve the purpose of distracting from the hurts, confusions and anxieties that often accompany a visit or stay in a hospital, even if it’s just for a moment. Art can help create a sense of the familiarity and warmth in a place which is unfamiliar and sometimes even frightening. It provides a place where the mind and heart can go to feel safe.
Public art is an important part of your work. What role do you think art plays in the well being of a community?
I find myself becoming increasingly interested and curious in exploring history through public art. Every community has an interesting history and every person has a story. In my experience many people don’t know the history of where they live and public art is a great venue for exposing people to their past. I believe that when people understand their community’s history they will be more likely to participate in its future.
You integrate nature into many of your sculptures, bringing the outside world into indoor spaces. Why do you think it’s important for us to be surrounded by nature?
Nature shows us how we are all bound together for better or worse, and how we are all, as individuals, part of something greater than ourselves. We all have nature in common and I think many people recognize this. Nature can also symbolize aspects of our lives. Images, especially those of animals, are interpreted as personal metaphors. I often ask clients what kind of imagery is important to them and most of the time the answer leads to something from nature.
You have created a beautiful series of garden sculptures. Why are gardens important to you?
Gardens are one of the places I go for nurturing and healing. I find it therapeutic to get my hands into the warm soil; maybe I just like to play in the dirt and this is a grown-up way to do it. A garden is my connection to Mother Earth and Mother Earth gives back in great measure with just a little effort on my part.
What artists/artworks do you turn to for inspiration?
One artist I find particularly inspiring is Andrew Goldsworthy, the British artist who finds inspiration and materials from the natural world around him. I appreciate his depth of thought, his playful whim and his earth-honoring sensibilities. Just the other day I discovered the work of Janet Echelman, another artist in the public art realm. Her imagination and innovation pushes the boundaries of design and materials. I also admire her sense of curiosity and exploration.
Have you witnessed or do you have any personal experience connecting art and healing?
The Combination of art and healing manifests itself in many ways. I’ve experienced it walking into a great cathedral and I’ve experienced it being in a culture (Bali) that has merged art with spirituality in daily life. It was not only healing, it was liberating. I remember when the Gulf War was declared and I was at a Sweet Honey in the Rock concert. I was upset because of the onset of war, yet when the group began to sing I welled up with tears; partly as a release of anxiety, but also in the reassurance that there is greatness, love and sweetness in the human experience. I also believe that if we are still enough, we can experience healing through art every day; in the simple act of looking out the window, gazing upon the art of creation and taking a deep breath. Art is all around us and healing takes hold when our eyes and hearts are open.
Peter, thank you for gifting us with your art and insights!
Peter Goetzinger, along with his brother, Rolf Goetzinger, are Artist Brothers. You can learn more about Peter, Rolf and their artwork at Artistbrothers.com.