South Dakota artist John Lopez makes some of the most beautiful metal artwork we’ve ever seen.
Lopez uses scrap metal from farm equipment along with other reclaimed objects and bronze figurines to weld amazing and elaborate animal sculptures in a process he calls “hybrid metal art.”
The artist studied at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota with several well-known sculptors before starting his own workshop.
According to Cowboys and Indians Magazine, Lopez turned from bronze work to his new welding method after the death of his biggest fan, his Aunt Effie.
After he made a tiny welded statue to top her cemetery’s gate, it changed his aesthetic forever.
“I was dealing with the loss of one of my biggest fans,” he told the magazine, “so I put all my energy and emotion into it.”
Unfortunately, Aunt Effie would never see him become a widely celebrated artist whose work appears in private collections, corporate parks, and museums across the country.
Lopez’s father was a cattle rancher who passed down quite a bit of knowledge to his son about animal anatomy. Now, when Lopez looks at discarded equipment like chains, old tractor parts, and plows, he sees shapes what will eventually become joints and bones.
“Animals are basically made up of different shapes. It’s just understanding what the shapes are and what angle they’re at when the animal’s moving.”
His website bio makes it clear that his artwork is a blend of appreciation for history, the land, labor, and a desire to create something new and unique out of the blood, sweat, and tears of the past. He called the “rusted carcasses of discarded equipment” he uses a “testament to generations of labor.”
His work “Black Hawk” is inspired by the centuries of literal horsepower it took to work the earth and make way for crops as well as clear land for more modern structures and humanity’s progress.
Lopez decided it made sense to built this piece “from parts of the very same early tractors and other implements that replaced the draft horses on working farms.”
The piece called Friesian is yet another magnificent testament to turning old materials into something beautiful and new. While Friesians are now predominantly show animals, they were one work horses used to pull wagons, according to Lopez’s description.
Many of the pieces in this statue came from a collector of John Deere tractors whose storage building burned down, stripping the parts of their value as well as their collectible status. This silver statue has 8 plow discs rescued from the wreckage, which Lopez says give it “a more unified feel than the other horses ” in his series.
And if you’re ever in South Dakota, be sure to stop by the Kokomo Gallery in the city of Lemmon where you can take in the beauty of this piece, called “Custer’s Last Stand.”
“A fusion of scrap iron and cast bronze,” Lopez considers it a perfect example of his hybrid metal art sculpture technique.
What a beautiful way to see someone’s trash as treasure!
We’re in awe of Lopez work. If you are too, be sure to check out the other pieces in his collection at John Lopez Studio.
Scroll down below to see a video of him collecting pieces for some of his incredible sculptures.
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