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John Lopez uses the landscape, wildlife, and history of his South Dakota home as inspiration for his sculptures.

During the time of Manifest Destiny and westward expansion, pioneers had to make do with their own grit, guts, and gumption to survive. The wilderness is a tough place to live, even under the best of circumstances.

It’s this sort of history that South Dakota artist John Lopez uses as inspiration for his beautiful and iconic work. John doesn’t use paint or ink to create his masterpieces. Instead, he scours scrapyards and farms for discarded equipment—but it’s what he creates from that metal that truly hearkens back to the roots of his ancestors’ Wild West.

The resulting works seem to have a life to them that other art just doesn’t possess.

Telling the story of life on the prairie is incomplete without the bison, the main resource of generations of Native peoples who called this region their home. The Grand River once knew vast herds of bison, unconfined by fences, as it now knows cattle and sheep that are moved from pasture to pasture by ranchers on horseback.

Sculptor John Lopez is a product of a place. His people’s ranches are scattered along the Grand River in northwestern South Dakota—not far from where Sitting Bull was born and died.


Not far from where thousands of buffalo were killed during the westward expansion of settlers and gold miners. In the bone yards of Tyrannosaurus rex and grizzly bears. Since farmers and ranchers populated this chunk of reservation land, real cowboys have been roping and branding and sheering and haying and harvesting.


John’s own forte lies in gentling colts and perfecting their bloodlines—and he started his celebration of them by sculpting in clay. Capturing every nuance, every muscle, in this land where business is still conducted over a cup of coffee and “neighboring” is a way of life.


Somehow that way of life—where times seems to have stood still—has seen the transition from horsepower to vehicles. The rusted carcasses of discarded equipment stand testament to generations of labor. And the man who knows blood lines has picked through them, choosing the elements of the past—the actual implements that plowed the soil or cut the grain or dug the dinosaur—and created the curve of a jaw, the twitch of a tail, the power of a shoulder.


Join John on a tour of kitchens and scrap piles, barns and grain elevators, cemeteries and workshops—hosted by the people of the prairie. Meet Uncle Geno and brother-in-law Stuart, and scrap collectors from near and far. Listen carefully. There’s a story in the wind.
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