Thursday, July 30, 2009

Artist Transforms Rez Wrecks

I'm looking up and out.

Because we're in Big Sky country and I've never seen anything like it.

Imagine you are a tiny, tiny dot inside a Montana snow globe, but it's
not snowing, and the sun's shining. Look ahead, to your left, right
and behind you. Seas of golden wheat flitter and wave. Now look up,
and around and around.

Sky. Sky. Sky. On my. Brilliant blue sky. Everywhere.

Now and then, a stupendous mountain range, called the Rockies, juts
into the endless sky.

Because of my up-and-out looking, I almost miss what occupies me for
the rest of the day. Two warriors. Metal warriors. Atop horses. Metal

It takes a minute for my brain to register what my eyes see. By the
time I get it, and decide I want to see more of it, we've zipped past
it. We're just about to enter the the town of Browning on Route 2 in
northwest Montana when I plead with Allen (who's driving), "Go back!
Go back!"

"WHY?" He missed it, too.

I explain, and we turn around. Nearly a mile later we find our life-
sized warriors silently welcoming visitors to the 1.4 million acre
Blackfeet Nation.

I stand; I stare. I sense power from these silent metal men riding
their welded steeds. Obviously, the artist used discarded pieces of
metal to craft this amazing work. Look at the pictures. See the way
discarded auto parts are transformed into arms, legs, bodies, eyes,
headdresses, staffs and armor?

But why?

The story is lost because there is no sign, no label, nothing that
speaks about why these sculptures are here and how they came to be.

I take pictures, then load myself back into the motor home and
continue into Browning.

We need fuel, so we stop at the nearest gas station, a Cenex. I go
inside and ask the clerk, "Do you know who made the warriors?"

"My cousin, Jay Laber" she say, casually. HER COUSIN??? "He lives over
in Polson."

What she didn't tell me and the Internet did is Jay Polite Laber, 47,
is a self-taught Blackfeet artist, art teacher and amazing reclamation
man. He turns old junk cars (he calls them Rez Wrecks) and barbed
wire into art (he calls it Trash Art) that defines the life of Native

About five years ago, Laber was commissioned by the National Assembly
of State Art Assemblies
to create his warriors. The idea was the art
would identify native lands to drivers otherwise consumed by the
magnificence of nature.

As we leave the Blackfeet Nation, about 35 miles later, we repeat the
drive-by process, only this time Allen sees the warriors and I miss
them. We still have to turn around.

It makes me wonder how many other drivers catch sight of these
treasures and know, therefore, that they've entered native lands.

And how many others drive right on by, because they are too busy
looking up and out.


Linda said...

Wow! We'll look for these the next time we are in Montana.

Linda Sand

Sonia said...

The last time I was in Montana it WAS snowing, and it was somewhere around -8*. Yuck. Beautiful pictures!