Like the tribal college on Montana's Flathead Indian Reservation, the metal sculpting technique has evolved. Originally created from scrap pieces of metal such as junk car parts and wire, the sculptures are now reaching new heights and developing new business opportunities for students and instructors.
A '75 Chevy Malibu soars like an ‘Eagle Spirit'
During a dusty walk to work, Dwight Billedeaux was offered a deal on a 1975 Chevy Malibu and, although money was an issue, he was allowed a payment plan. Within weeks, the car broke down but Billedeaux had a debt that needed to be paid.
The SKC art instructor, a Blackfeet tribal member, quickly went to work sculpting, rearranging and welding the Malibu's junk car parts with wire. After several months, Billedeaux created a sculpture of a tribal man freeing an eagle into the sky.
Junk cars become an environmental resource
Sold to SKC in 2000, a new generation of sculptures was born through Blackfeet artist Jay Labor's piece, "Buffalo Hunt." The trash art sculpture depicts an energetic tribal man on horseback, spear-hunting a rowdy buffalo.
Combining talent and experience in the construction business, Laber often shapes his sculptures to give the illusion of movement and depth. Most of the 47-year-old artist's work is constructed of junk car parts.
While earlier SKC sculptures were created using trash art, artist Glenn Aragon introduced the welded art sculpting technique. Using methods he'd learned during his 35 years as a welder, Aragon's artwork is created from purchased (rather than scrap) metals.
Standing tall at 30 feet, Aragon's sculpture, "Eagle Feather," decorates the newest addition on campus. Weighing more than 300 pounds, "Eagle Feather" seems to float in the wind, and unlike previous artists, Aragon torches the metal to add color to his sculptures.
Comment: For more on the subject, see From Junked Cars to Expressive Art--Blackfeet Sculptor’s Work on Display at MAM.
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