Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lopez Studio Installations

This installation is in-front of the Brookings Arts Council Building, Brookings, SD for one year.  "The War Horse" is still available for sale or rent.

"The anatomy and kinetics intermixed with curious choices of familiar steel 
objects speckled about the sculpture in randomly organized patterns..."
-Quote taken from a fan on

This life-size Hybrid Metal horse is titled IRON STAR.  It won the peoples choice award in 2009 at the Sculpture In the Hills show and was later purchased by the Hill City Ats Council and placed on Main Street in Hill City.  Horses have always been my favorite subject to sculpt.  As you scroll down you will see a hand full of equine pieces that I have created over the past five years.

Click this link to see more of John's latest work.

The Grizzly Bear was commissioned by Mackenzie River Pizza, Grill and Pub in Bismarck, ND

 Dakotah Steak House on Elk Vale, Rd on the east side of Rapid City.


Hello there.  A few years ago when I was traveling through Hill City is South Dakota I had the opportunity to see your horse sculpture and I instantly fell in love with your work.  Thank you for sharing that gift with the world.  Wow.  Really amazing in my opinion, my family and I still look at the photo that we took as each time you look at it, it is interesting in a new way each time.  Really wonderful. 

At any rate, I just wanted to send you a note to tell you that I really enjoy your work.

Kind Regards,

Hi Mr. Lopez,

I saw your "Dakotah" piece in South Dakota last summer. I can't say I've ever been so moved by any art as I was that buffalo. Words are cheap, but I wanted to tell you how much your work is appreciated. I took some photos of it with my family and was just looking through those and realized I never wrote you to tell you. I hope you make a million more beautiful works and I hope the world sees what I see.

I discovered your art through a website called Just wanted
to tell you that I think your sculptures are amazingly genius. I
literally stared at a picture of one of your buffalo sculptures for a

half hour. Look forward to seeing what you create next!

This email is just to let you know that I just happened on your web page today and enjoyed very much the photos of your work. My daughter in law is from Belle Fourche SD. My family is from New Mexico and my Great Grandfather was a trapper at Fort Bennett on the Sante Fe trail. With this in mind your work touches my heart due mostly to the western theme of much of it although the T-Rex put a huge smile on my face, too!
Thanks again for your inspiration and talent.

Salve Sig. Jhon le faccio i miei più sinceri complimenti perché Lei è veramente un grande artista. Anche io mi diverto a fare sculture in ferro.grazie della sua arte. Le scrivo dalla Sardegna un isola dell'Italia.
Arrivederci Cristian

English Translation
Hello Mr. Jhon I make my most sincere congratulations because you are truly a great artist. Although I enjoy making sculptures in ferro.grazie of his art. I am writing from an Italian island Sardinia. 
Goodbye Cristian 

Dear John Lopez,
Traveling through the hills, last month, I saw a most intriguing statue on the main street of Hill City (a town I've always had a fondness for)...I had to stop & see it up close. Luckily there was a parking spot close by! IRON STAR is truly beautiful, and to me ..'alive'!
I saw the sculptors name, & went inside the gallery to find out if this was possibly the same artist that I had read about, many years previous, in the Timber Lake Topic! And yes, it was! See, Firesteel South Dakota is where I grew up..on a farm/ranch north of there. I recall our school bus stopping by the Lopez place each day. Albert Lopez, if my memory serves me correctly. I now live in Canada & rarely get back to that area.
I was on my way     home from Nebraska, where we had just buried my fathers had been an emotional, fulfilling trip taking him 'home'.....and seeing your horse, there in Hill City...well I can't explain the memories & feelings that evoked.
Your creations are truly remarkable. I am planning on going to T.L this summer for a class reunion, and plan to visit your gallery in Lemmon. I would love to bring you a piece of small scrap iron from my Dads place up here in Saskatchewan, if that would be o.k.....perhaps you could find a place for it in a future work!   Thanks so much for your creations.....

Dear Mr. Lopez,
My husband and I recently visited Rapid City, SD as a part of a tour of the western U.S. A friend of yours in the Alex Johnson Mercantile gave me your contact information. What I wanted to share with you is what an awesome experience it was for me to encounter the presidential statues on the street corners. I have been blind for 40 years , but did not lose my sight until my mid-twenties. Because I had visual memory of many of the recent presidents, especially JFK from pictures and TV, when I touched the statues I immediately recognized them. For me as a person who is blind, it was one of the most accessible exhibits I have ever experienced. In most museums items are behind glass or ropes and I must be content to have someone describe them to me. In Rapid City, I had the exhilarating experience of “seeing” them for myself.

Please let other artists who have participated in this project know how much this firsthand knowledge of their art work means to someone who sees through touch.



HI John,
My name is John Pahlas & I am primarily a steel sculptor. I can't believe I haven't heard of you
before, but I am astounded by how fabulous your sculptures are!! True skill and motivated creativity! I can only begin to describe how inspiring your work is!
 I'm fresh out of college with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, and I've recently opened up a small gallery with two other artist friends of mine here in Blue Mounds, Wisconsin. I just wanted to send you some photos of my work and see what you think.
 I also wanted to pick your brain a bit and ask how you got your start and what direction did you take to get yourself these wild commissions? Did you focus on getting into galleries first? Were you sought out by outside entities to do work? I'm just curious because it has for many years been my highest aspiration to get my work into the public sphere and to help make public spaces more creative and beautiful. Any words of advice would do.
Currently I have about 5 commissions going and while I work on those I try to build about 50 small birds a month, and they usually find homes a week or two after I build them. So, I feel that the direction I'm taking is a good start, but I'm hungry for more! I'd like to save up enough to get a studio that isn't a one car garage so I could work larger scale; my larger work is done outside, but its getting pretty nippy over here! Any advice or words of wisdom would be amazing!
Thanks for your time John, your work is truly amazing! DOn't ever put that welder down, my friend!
Take care, stay safe,
Center Ground Studios
    Find Your Center. Stand Your Ground.
Custom Steel Sculpture, Hand-Made Ceramics
    10991 Division st. Blue Mounds, Wisco

Here is a shot of me on the left side of Dakotah to give you an idea of the size of this sculpture.
At this stage of creating Dakotah I had some strange dreams.  I was on such a high doing this 
piece that I felt like I was on drugs or something just before falling to sleep.  The same kind of thing happened when I was working on Iron Star.

Rapid City Regional Airport, Rapid City, SD

  Out Door Campus West -SD Dept of Game Fish

The Game Fish and Parks on Sturgis Rd. Rapid City, SD.

 Grand River Museum in Lemmon, South Dakota.


Pinnacle, New Hampshire


Triple Creek Ranch Resort in Darby, MT

Pinnacle, New Hampshire

Equine vet Margie Jones of Sturgis commissioned this piece in 2010.
The pedestal is made from a galvanized garage door track.

This is the very first scrap iron piece I did. It is titled Grande Rondo, it is now in Solvang, CA.

I did this bonsai tree in 2011 at the Schmidt ranch.  I used steal cable to make the needles of the tree.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Wild West Buffalo

 The Wild West Buffalo features two life-size portrait bronzes in it.  The right side has Sitting Bull welded in it and the left side features a portrait of Buffalo Bill Cody.  The two famous characters starred in Bill Cody's Wild West Show that toured the all around world.

The idea to put the two bronze busts featuring Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill came about during the 2012 Christmas fair in Lemmon.  Kavan Donohue was looking through a book in front of Phyllis Schmidt's booth and saw an old poster that showed a picture of  Buffalo Bill in a running buffalo (pictured below).  Kavan pointed it out to me and said if you like to put faces in your pieces put Buffalo Bill in a Buffalo like this. 

This is the face I cut off a twelve foot Angel and welded into Top Knot a life-size horse I was building the summer of 2012.  This face inspired Kavan to have an idea after seeing Buffalo Bills face in the poster above.  This is a big deal because know I am not just building a scrap iron buffalo. It now has a theme to it and the face helps tell the story. In the case of the Wild West Buffalo pictured below Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill being in the same buffalo gives it this new feel that my piece didn't have before this.  Thanks Kavan!

  I talked with Kavan on the phone when I started sculpting the Buffalo Bill bust in clay and he said it really needed to be trying to get out of the buffalo. I remember taking the clay that I had just started the day before to the shop and cutting the armature to push one shoulder down and turn his face.  The action in this portrait really adds to the finished piece.

Here are some progress shots of The Wild West Buffalo while in the welding shop.


 I can really feel my style coming together in this piece.  This is quintessential John Lopez with a touch of Kavan Donohue mixed in.  I liked to hide my bronzes in the Hybrid Metal pieces but in this one I feature the bronzes in an obvious way. The Sitting Bull Bust is not hidden it is intentionally framed so that your eye is drawn to it right away.

The Wild West Buffalo is finally complete.  If you want to see the piece in person come
 to Rapid City, SD June 22 and 23rd for the Art and Wine Festival in the Main Street Square.

After we installed the buffalo in New Hampshire we met this gal on a whale watching excursion.  She called the next morning because she wanted to come and see the two pieces I have at Pinacle.

Kavan Donohue and I in front of Dakotah after a photo shoot for Faces Magazine. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Grizzly Bear

Here is the beginning of a piece I am doing for a new restaurant in Bismark, ND.
Stay tuned and watch it change over the next couple months.

Here is the finished Grizzly in front of the Grand River Museum in Lemmon, SD.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hybrid Metal Art

A mascot for Lemmon High School.

Thank you to Lisa and Stuart Schmidt for being so patient during the creation of this big piece.
It has been in the shop since last October and is finally done and ready to be installed in front of the
 Lemmon High School in Lemmon, SD sometime in early May of 2012.

Most of the iron used in this piece came from a combination
of Devin ODonnell, Schmidt's and the Petik's.
The mans face is cast bronze.
Here is a link to a video showing how this sculpture was made.


A horse within a horse.

I have quite a time trying to find really cool things to weld into my scrap iron sculptures that will set them apart form other found object art that I have seen.  So I started to weld my own limited edition bronzes into
these one of a kind assemblages.  This one has a bronze horse head in it.  This piece is now in Paige, Texas.

There are lots of fun moving parts on this one.

The eye is a focal point for Lopez's sculptures.  It is the window to the soul.

 Chief Red Iron has a cast bronze face and a scrap iron body. 

This video show how I create a Hybrid Metal Sculpture.

This is one of my first attempts at sculpting a face entirely out of scrap iron.
It was cool but the texture took people by surprise, so I started to sculpt
 the faces in clay and cast them into bronze. The body and clothes
are scrap iron or found objects as pictured below in Iron Man. 

This is the first version of Iron Man.  After some negative reactions by the public I cut
 out the scrap iron face and welded in a bronze face sculpted especially to fit the Iron Man.

Iron Man is in Faith, SD on highway 212.
The cowboy's face is cast bronze. Can you see the Casey Tibbs
bronze hidden under the cowboy's left arm.

The Ghost of Sitting Bull is the second face I did using only found objects. 
I found that when I do them bigger the face turns out better.
Can you spot the gun trigger in Sitting Bulls neck.

 By the time I did this one I came to the conclusion that I can get much
more emotion and detail out of the face if I sculpt them in clay instead of scrap iron.
The face, boots and hands are all cast bronze in this little saddle bronc rider titled Ram Tough.
Can you guess what the wool on the Ram is made from.

I am working on three pieces at the same time in Schmidt's shop just South of Lemmon.
The Wild West Buffalo, the mascot for Lemmon High and the Sand Hill Crane for Rapid City Reg. Air Port.

My Life on the Ranch
Horses have always been a big part of my life.

This is 008, a gelding sired by Cowboy's Frenchman a son of Frenchman's Guy.

As a youth I did a lot of riding, especially during branding season.

My Dad Lee Lopez on Baldy.

Branding calves near the Grand River.

My Grandparents
My great Grandmother Rebecca Lopez (left) lived near Trinidad Colorado.
 Grandfather Albert Lopez and my Grandmother Luvica Pelter Lopez raised they re family
(my father) in the Eagle Butte area.   What I would give to have all them here today.

My Grandfather Albert on the far left came up to South Dakota from Trinidad Colorado.
 Albert came to South Dakota in 1923 with the Diamond A Cattle Co. A pioneer cowboy
 and horseman, he formed one of South Dakota's first bands of AQHA approved mares.

My great Grandfather Elfido Lopez
(pictured second from far left) wrote this in 1937.
When I was 21 years old I married Miss Rebecca Richards at Higbee, Colorado. She was 18 years old and a sweeter woman never was and I think a lot more about this than she thinks I do.
We met when I was about 12 years old and she came to visit some friends close to my home. I lost my handkerchief and she found it and wrapped it up in a piece of paper with a little red ribbon very nice and wrote a little note saying she had found it and was returning it. I could not read at all so I just copied her same note and sent it back to her. I thought I was doing something pretty good and that was the beginning of our corresponding. So from then on I tried my best to learn how to write. I can’t spell much but I make people understand me alright.

We raised 8 children and there are seven living today. The oldest died when he was 20 years old. I always tried to teach my children right to be truthful and not steal. I will tell any man or woman to be careful who they let their children run with. I was a boy once and I know by experience that when I was with a good boy I was just as good as he was but when I was with a bad boy I was a little worse than he was. I never did anything so awful bad that I couldn’t tell about it but still I know that I did do some wrong.  Well I’ve had good times and bad times in this world but I would not trade my reputation for the First National Bank of Trinidad

My moms father Fred Morris on the far right, is pictured here with his father in law and two brothers in law.
The Rev. Dr. Frederick Myers Morris, who led St. Thomas Episcopal Church on Fifth Avenue,
(New York City) into a period of renewal during his 18-year tenure as its 10th rector. He was born in Los Angeles and graduated from Hobart College in 1927 and Virginia Theological Seminary three years later. He was a missionary to the Arapaho Indians of Wyoming and a rector in Maryland and Massachusetts.
From 1948 until his arrival at St. Thomas in 1954, he was dean of St. Mark's Cathedral in Minneapolis.

My Mom
My Mother Elizabeth Morris, came to South Dakota as a missionary from the east coast.
 She fell in love with the prairie and the people near the Missouri River.
She was very interested in art and passed that down to me and my siblings.

The Hunts

My Aunt Effie and Uncle Geno Hunt have been great believers in me and my work.

Aunt Effie died in a car accident in 2006 so I moved down to the ranch with Uncle Geno and built
this gate for the new cemetery.  This is when I made the transition from bronze into scrap iron.
I often wonder what Effie would have thought of this new work.  She never got to see any of it.

This is the first piece I did after the cemetery gate.  This horse went to Solvang, CA.