Porter’s art thrills

Metal sculpture park continues to grow

For travelers along Interstate 90, their first impression of Porter Sculpture Park is a sixty-foot, twenty-five ton bull’s head that rises out of the South Dakota prairie like it’s trying to gore the sky.

That image is among the first that Wayne Porter ’83 ever cut out of metal.

When he was 10 years old, Porter’s father taught him how to use a torch in his St. Lawrence blacksmith shop.

“I cut a bull’s head and wore it around my neck,” Porter recalls. “The next year I cut a bull’s head from a much larger and thicker piece of iron and hung it on the shop wall.”

A history and political science major at State, Porter was struck by the images of sculptures used by Professor Rodney Bell in his history classes. Constantine’s head, a dying Gaul, and the Laocoon Group brought Porter a new awareness of the power of art.

“He wanted us to know a civilization by its art,” Porter says. “It changed my sense of art.”

Porter took his degree back to St. Lawrence where he started a sheep ranch and helped in his father’s blacksmith shop.

Porter felt compelled to make sculptures, working on them late into the summer nights in the blacksmith shop.

“I did not want to be an artist,” Porter says. “However, I just feel a need to do art. In the same way, I do not think of myself as a breather of air, yet I need to breathe air.”

Word spread about the work that Porter was doing.

“An occasional tour bus would stop by and pay me to look at them (the artwork),” Porter says. “I became a vegetarian, sold the sheep, and decided to build a sixty-foot-tall bull’s head.”

His brother Ron found land along Interstate 90 near Sioux Falls that was perfect for a sculpture park.

Moving the sculptures from St. Lawrence to Montrose took some time. While the inspiration for the artwork is all Porter’s, the sculpture park that has taken shape is a family effort.

Ron found the land and helps out any way he can at the park. Porter’s mother gave tours and his father mowed the paths through the park. His sisters organized the park and made it efficient.

“If any of these people had been removed from the equation, the sculpture park would not exist,” Porter says. “The sculpture park was built on relationships and trust.”

More and broader relationships are in the park’s future as Porter wants to strengthen ties with Sioux Falls and open the park to the works of other artists.

In his own work, Porter continues to be inspired by an image from his youth. As a teenager, he did several pieces in dripped bronze. One of them was a horse.

Now he’s at work on a copy of that bronze—a copy that will rival the bull’s head in size.

“I think that it will be the world’s largest metal horse,” Porter says. “The frame is complete, but it needs to be covered in railroad tie plates.”

To keep the forty-foot, seven-ton structure from collapsing on itself during construction, Porter is using the lessons he learned about Roman arches in Professor Bell’s history classes.

Cold winters keep Porter away from the horse project and working in his shop where, it turns out, he doesn’t have much choice about what he’s going to be working on next.

“I do not choose the project. The project chooses itself,” Porter says. “Images are always competing in my head. The loudest one demands to be built.”




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