Nagase Sculpture Inspires Community Artists

Nov 4, 2014

Marks on Stone - by Kenny Putnam
Credit Courtesy Kenny Putnam

  The Passage of Wind and Water sculpture has been the focal point of Rapid City’s Main Street Square for the past two years. But the country’s largest privately-funded public art project has also had an impact on other areas – from schools, to cultural bridge-building, to local businesses and social networking. We visit the opening of an exhibit at Prairie Edge Trading Company and Galleries to see how the Passage of Wind and Water sculpture is also impacting the area's art community. 

It’s a Friday night in downtown Rapid City and, if you’re an artist, Prairie Edge is THE place to be.

Standing in the center of the second-floor art gallery at Prairie Edge, organizing committee member Steve Babbitt welcomes a crowd of several dozen to the opening of the Wind and Water Exhibit.

“Tonight we’re having an exhibit of thirty-one South Dakota artists that were chosen by a committee about a year ago,” says Babbitt. “And the theme of the exhibit is roughly or loosely based on the idea of wind and water. The same idea that Yuki is using to guide him through his sculpture project at Main Street Square.”

“Yuki” is Masayuki Nagase, the Japanese sculptor who’s just completing the second year of a planned five-year sculpture project called “Passage of Wind and Water”. Yuki says he’s honored that his own work has inspired others to create art.

“Well…I think I feel very fortunate to be in this situation…in this time,” Nagase observes. “You know,it’s the  right time I was here and I was working this project. And that project brings so many different people’s creativity together. And that’s a lucky thing.”

Those different people Yuki refers to include a variety of artists who are painters in various mediums, photographers and sculptors like Joan S. Martin.

Spring Thaw - by Joan S. Martin
Credit Courtesy Joan S. Martin

  “I do bronzes,” Martin explains. “I sculpt bronzes. A lot of wildlife. Mine is…the bronze part is butterflies ascending…and you see the depiction of ice there. And then above those are glass butterflies…like spring. And it’s called Spring Thaw.”

Martin says conversations with Yuki and visits to his sculpture combined with her own love of nature made it easy to allow Yuki’s vision to inspire her in her own work.

“Because he has such liquid motion in his sculptures,” Martin comments, “when you do something that’s as solid as bronze and you add something as liquid as water…or glass, excuse me…then you get all that movement that works as much as stone does and as much as the fluidity in his design.”

A Song For Our Relatives - Del Iron Cloud
Credit Photo by Jim Kent

  Lakota artist Del Iron Cloud was born and raised on the Standing Rock Reservation. A traditional painter who focused on human and animal anatomy while studying Michelangelo and Da Vinci, Iron Cloud’s work is well known across the region in the many murals he’s created from Custer to Colorado Springs. As an artist who frequently concentrates on Native American themes, Iron Cloud’s contribution to the exhibit is subtle, yet obvious.

“I depicted these animals in the trees in the forest and this flute player on the rock,” Iron Cloud explains., “playing next to the lake. And it’s basically themed ‘Our Brothers’. The animals as being our brothers. Being thankful for the animals…for all that they’ve given us and without them we wouldn’t live…just like the water.”

Taking her camera out to the Badlands, photographer Katie Adkins used the reality of those age-old geological formations to create a mixed–media art project for the Wind and Water exhibit.

You're Angry When You're Beautiful - Katie Adkins
Credit Courtesy Katie Adkins

  “It represents the Badlands and the wind and water that created it and is also now destroying it,” says Adkins. “So it’s a series of photos, there’s photo-negatives and actual printed out photos that I destroyed using materials form the Badlands.”

As a longtime Rapid City resident, musician, performer and artist, Kenny Putnam has had his finger on the pulse of the local art scene for years. He was pleased to have his design “Marks on Stone”...a digital painting showing a Clovis man creating a petroglyph by a creek chosen for the Wind and Water exhibit. But Putnam was equally excited two years ago to learn that Yuki had been picked as the sculptor for the Main Street Square art project.

“Because of his different view of our culture and I love his work,” says Putnam. “I really do. And I think it’’s more descriptive in a way…it’s representational…but so that it can be interpreted by the viewer.”

Kenny Putnam adds that Yuki Nagase’s work on Passage of Wind and Water is much more appealing and inspiring than if a sculptor had simply carved Indian heads, cowboy faces or presidents into the granite stones at Main Street Square.