Artist John Lopez stands to tell history through a mixed-metal sculpture capturing the action from the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
Western art sculptor John Lopez is at it again, creating Hybrid Metal Art sculptures to highlight iconic aspects of Western culture on a large scale. His most recent project, however, involves paper—a coffee table book that features the sculpture collection The Grand River Series.
The book details the story behind the Hybrid Metal Art sculptures, including the origins and contributors of the scrap metal used in the pieces, Lopez’s process for gathering materials, and the fundamentals of his creative process.
“When I really think about it, the story of The Grand [River]—for my family, anyway—is one of ranchers and settlers who did two things. First, they became part of the human tale, both in the agricultural lifestyle and, honestly, in the human tragedy that had already happened in this part of the world. Second, they took their place within the environment, the landscape, and the wildlife that form the context of the place,” says Lopez.
One of the events represented is the Battle of the Little Bighorn. One sculpture in particular, The Last Stand, features two bison bulls at odds fighting for their lives. “For me, the Battle of the Little Bighorn expresses the crux of The Grand. It changed everything,” Lopez says.
The sculpture, The Last Stand, is a hybrid mixed-metals piece, portraying the adversaries of the battle in motion. Lopez’s juxtaposition of the two bison bulls brings to life visually the tension between the two sides. Each piece of the sculpture “represents one man and his mission during a momentous clash between two cultures. The busts of the men are cast in bronze as recognizable portraits of the emissaries representing their people, U.S. General George Armstrong Custer of the 7th Cavalry and Chief Sitting Bull of the Hunkpapa Lakota,” says Lopez. The two cast-bronze portraits are surrounded by bison bulls, also fighting, and serve to emphasize the opposing views on natural resource use central to the Little Bighorn conflict, while also contributing to the scene of the larger sculpture.
Viewed together, the final product is a commentary on the human story and its relationship with the greater natural world. The unique metal work and intricate details in the larger story of the Battle of the Little Bighorn set The Last Stand apart as a must-see piece.
Regarding his next project, Lopez states, “I think that The Last Stand probably will be the last Hybrid Metal Art component of The Grand River Series. But you never know—I thought the same thing when I completed the last several sculptures before this. As I debated whether to finish these two massive figures before finishing [my coffee table] book, I realized that I was kidding myself if I thought life was that neat and tidy. By the time I’m done with this, I’ll be knee-deep in the next thing. And I have no idea what someone might have stashed behind the barn or lost up in the rafters or dropped into a five-gallon bucket. It might spark the next big idea.”
Whatever Lopez’s next big idea may be, it’s also sure to be a must-see. We can’t wait to read about The Grand River Series and the human story interwoven in each piece.
John Lopez: Sculpture is available for purchase on his website. The Last Stand is featured at Lopez’s studio in Lemmon, South Dakota.