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.
To do this majestic creature justice, I again began with a clay model that would be cast into bronze. With calipers, I measured angles in inches that were translated into feet. Then, I sorted through Geno’s oil well pipe for the sturdy legs and framework. It was the same pipe Geno had bought by the truckload for corral construction, and that I had used on Effie’s gate. Thankfully, he had a lot left over.
It had become kind of a puzzle to see how many bronze castings I could fit into a design; for this one I used nearly two-dozen, from wildlife to Mount Rushmore. I also incorporated an abstract bald eagle—an indigenous resident of The Grand—with its wing sweeping back along the right side of the bison’s hump.
Dakotah represented an important turning point in my discovery of this new body of work. While envisioning the multitude of possibilities and experimenting in the shop, I had fantastic Technicolor dreams that fueled my twilight hours. An exciting, artistic adrenaline high carried me through workdays that stampeded into weeks, months, and eventually resulted in one ton’s worth of draped chains, curls of sheet metal, sickle guards, and hunks of cable-wire “hair.”