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Pete McCutchen: A Return to Roots

Pete McCutchen’s photographs have a peace about them, as if they were taken in an untouched world by a photographer who wasn’t meant to be there. Rolling sand dunes etched by the wind, craggy rocks crystallized by ice, hills sliced by an unseen force—each lead the eye to the strange patterns and textures of nature. The photographs, captured at Jockey’s Ridge State Park in North Carolina, The Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, and the Alaskan wilderness capture the drama of nature in abstracted monochrome.

Tears by Pete McCutchen
Tears by Pete McCutchen

Pete has been a regular in the gallery for many years, and The Art League checked in with him about his current exhibit, what inspires his work, and what he’s looking forward to next!

Why the choice to move to black and white, from your previous color photography?

“The short answer is that I think that this particular group of images looks better in black and white. In this case, what caught my eye was pattern and texture – hence the title of the show. The longer answer has to do with my own artistic journey, which is intertwined with the birth of digital photography technology. You could say that I’m returning to my roots – I began as a kid, working in the black and white darkroom.”

“My Yellowstone Thermal Zone series combined my bold abstract vision with traditional photographic virtue, and the Pattern + Texture series is an extension of that project.”

Jagged by Pete McCutchen
Jagged by Pete McCutchen

How did you make the decision to display your photographs on metallic paper? Can you tell us more about the process you use to display in this way?

“Today, however, with digital capture, there is a lot more fluidity.  I shoot everything with a digital camera, in color, and then I can convert the color image to black and white.  It means you can just shoot, and decide later what works best for a particular image or particular series. Most images want to be in black and white, or they want to be in color.”

Continuance by Pete McCutchen
Continuance by Pete McCutchen

What photographers inspire your work?

“I think it’s important to take inspiration in all places.  Not just photographers, but visual artists in general, from music, from nature.  You short change yourself as a photographer if all you do is look to other photographers.  It’s OK to emulate other people, but you should never imitate. I could try to become a junior varsity Ansel Adams, but I would never be more than a junior varsity version of a master.  I try to express my own distinctive vision, even as I draw on and am inspired by other photographers.”

“I was interviewed back in 2016, and I named a number of photographers, including quite a few associated with The Art League Gallery, The Torpedo Factory, and Multiple Exposures Gallery: Jim Steele, Fred Zafran, Soomin Ham, Min Enghauser, and Amanda Harner.

Capillary by Pete McCutchen
Capillary by Pete McCutchen

What are you working on next?

“Right now, I kind of feel like my Pattern + Texture idea is still running strong.  Having shot for two years in Alaska, Death Valley, the Petrified Forest, The Great Sand Dunes National Park, etc., I produced a pretty big body of work. I’m doing a show at the Touchstone Gallery in March, and my current plan is to do Pattern + Texture II – and it will be all new images.  I’m also exploring the Pattern + Texture idea on a smaller scale – the patterns and textures found in plants and leaves. I think that will birth another series. One of the early images exploring that idea, Capillary, is in this month’s All-Media show.  I suspect that will turn into its own collection.”

Pete McCutchen "Pattern+Texture"
Pete McCutchen “Pattern+Texture”

Visit the Art League Gallery TONIGHT for our November Opening Reception 6:30–8:00 pm in The Art League Gallery inside the Torpedo Factory (105 N. Union Street). Also, join us as we learn more about “Pattern+Texture” and explore Pete McCutchen’s work in “Drawn In: Taking a Closer Look” on November 29, 6:00–8:00 pm.

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