Arts, Education, Featured

A Sculpture for AVTEC by Fairbanks Artist John Coyne

Alaskan born artist John Coyne of Palmer recently designed and created a sculpture for AVTEC that is simply titled “AVTEC”. You may have noticed it in front of the Applied Technology, Diesel and Heavy Equipment building. John was selected to create this piece through Alaska’s Percent for Art program. This is a competitive process where a handful of artists are selected on the strength of their resumes and portfolios. The selected artists submit their proposals and the jury then decides on the chosen artist. John was extremely gratified upon finding out he was selected to create the sculpture for AVTEC.

Detail of AVTEC. Photo courtesy of Bobby Dunno, Department Head/Instructor AVTEC Applied Technology Department.

The call sheet for the project suggested “Steampunk” be part of the design consideration and that the spirit of AVTEC be represented. John interprets “Steampunk” to be the merging of two genres: The Victorian era combined with an unspecified futuristic era. With that in mind John used a combination of Greek and Roman pediment sculpture merged with the Art Deco movement. The requirements and parameters dictated that the piece be durable and able to withstand the elements and it had to visually command the proposed location. AVTEC provided some basis ideas they would like to see and John ran with it from there. Once the schematics were complete a few changes were made at the advice of the committee and the sculpting began.

The crew installing AVTEC. Photo courtesy of Bobby Dunno, Department Head/Instructor AVTEC Applied Technology Department.

“AVTEC” is John Coyne’s biggest sculpture to date, measuring 50 feet in length and 8 feet tall at the highest point. It was a challenge to work on something of that scale and complexity. How do you begin creating a sculpture of this size? The molding process is done by using resin bonded sand molds. The sand molds are then put together and molten metal is poured into them. The gears on the “AVTEC” sculpture could have been created with molds as well, but John chose to have them very precisely cut using aluminum plates at Trijet Manufacturing Services, located in Palmer. The cutting was done with Trijet’s water-jet cutting technology. John is proud to say that this sculpture is 100% Alaskan. He bought all of his materials and supplies at Spenard Builders and AIH Hardware and he utilized businesses in Palmer to create the sculpture. Aside from working with Trijet, John also worked with Arctic Fires Foundry. John stated that a lot of artists utilize foundries in the lower 48 to complete their work and he feels that Arctic Fires Foundry can stand up to any foundry in the lower 48. John considers himself very fortunate to work with them as they are “a class act.”

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When asked what John enjoyed the most about the process, he replied by saying he loved breaking open the molds after the metal had been poured. He said it was like opening presents on Christmas morning! He also enjoyed sculpting the leading woman, using his niece as a model. From start to finish it took one year to complete “AVTEC”. John said it was a learning process and he is extremely grateful for the opportunity. “AVTEC” was installed in one weekend with the help of a top notch crew that included the artist himself, Patrick Garley of Arctic Fires Foundry, Kerby McGhee, Scott Pugh and Rayette Sterling. John went on to say that it was a true joy to work with everyone at AVTEC and in his words, the guys there are great!

The artist and crew after installing the sculpture. From left to right: Kerby McGhee, Patrick Garley, Rayette Sterling, John Coyne and Scott Pugh. Photo courtesy of Bobby Dunno, Department Head/Instructor AVTEC Applied Technology Department.

John originally hails from Fairbanks. His family moved away for awhile and as a teenager he returned to Southeast Alaska. John spent a number of years living in Iowa and Illinois and he is now happy to call Palmer home. When John isn’t busy sculpting he loves painting Alaskan landscapes in oils. His paintings can be seen at the Palmer Public Library, the Statehouse in Juneau and the Blue Holloman Gallery in Anchorage. John also has several installations that can be seen across Alaska: the Norton Sound Hospital in Nome, the Dena’ina Wellness Center in Kenai and the Veterans Pioneer Retirement Home in Palmer. While building a website is John’s next endeavor, he can currently be found as John Coyne on Facebook. (https://www.facebook.com/john.coyne.90).

There is just a little bit of finishing work to be done to “AVTEC”, but it the meantime, be sure to take notice of it the next time you drive by.

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