Manuel Ponce ’23
Pete Gunkleman, director of Mercersburg Outdoor Education, is known around campus for his love of the outdoors and climbing. While this may be true, he has also been involved in art and ceramics his entire life. Starting at a young age, Gunkleman began drawing on the back of church membership cards, on napkins at restaurants, and during road trips. Since then, his love of the arts has only grown.
Gunkleman experimented with a variety of different mediums, and although he loved them all, over time he began to focus on ceramics. He said, “It was an easy way for my parents to make me content and quiet. I took my first ceramics class at 10 years old and was instantly obsessed with the ability to create permanent objects from soft, malleable clay.” His early passion for ceramics inspired him to enroll in classes in high school, as an undergraduate at Richmond, and later in graduate school. He pursued both figure drawing and figure sculpting and now considers work on figures his favorite art style. Figure sculpting and drawing are sketches and sculptures of the human body in various forms and creative positions.
One of Gunkelman’s preferred classes in graduate school was Figurative Sculpture which he took with Toby Mendez. Toby Mendez is a reputable American sculptor who has created multiple famous works, including one of Gandhi located in the Mohandas K. Gandhi Memorial in Long Island, New York. He also sculpted the Erin Carey Memorial here on campus.
One piece of Gunkleman’s that students may recognize is a beautiful sculpture of a naked man displayed on the first floor of the Burgin Center for the Arts. He said, “The sculpture was first created in an oil-based clay called plastelina where plaster molds were taken and a hollow wax cast was made. The hollow wax piece was covered in silica, the wax was melted out, and molten bronze took its place. There was a ton of finishing work after the silica was chipped off (welding, grinding, spraying on the patina).” The style that Pete used is called “lost wax.” This style of waxing is special because each resulting bronze sculpture is unique. If the casting fails, the sculptor has to begin again. Gunkleman has gifted one of his works to the school.
In the past, Gunkleman taught art classes at Mercersburg. Along with Amy Kelly, for three years he co-taught 3D Design, the first Springboard course focused on 3D computer graphics, modeling, and fabrication. He has also been a guest lecturer and co-teacher in the Graphic Novels course alongside Matt Maurer. More recently, this winter he taught Drawing I.