Tag Archives: Jay Laber

Industrial Indigenous Art at the University of Montana

"Charging Forward" (2001) by Jay Laber. Photo taken in July 2013.

“Charging Forward” (2001) by Jay Laber. Photo taken in July 2013.

This last July, Molly and I took a solid but much-too-short tour of the northern inter-mountain American West. This was in part vacation, part research (ever since reading John Barnes 2008 article in The Public Historian on the Bear River Massacre, I had been determined to visit the site myself), and part visiting and catching up with our family and friends. We dropped in on Livingston and Missoula, Montana; Salmon, Idaho; Salt Lake City, Utah; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Spearfish, South Dakota; and Bismarck, North Dakota.

Another part that comes along with a research-vacation-visitation such as this is that one invariably stumbles into the unanticipated, and that’s exactly what happened while on the University of Montana campus.

The sculpture pictured here is by Jay Laber (Blackfeet), “Charging Forward” (2001). When we came across this work of industrial indigenous art, it reminded me a bit of how two worlds were blending: the pre-Industrial world of the plains indigenes portrayed through the industrial and post-industrial medium of welding and scrap metal (those found objects). In my own memory bank, it caused me to think about Mad Max films and a scrap yard that used to be on the east edge of Main in Bismarck (just behind the Big Boy). Art is fun that way, whether poetry or sculpture or you name it. The randomness triggers the unanticipated, those memories we forgot about or didn’t know existed. Laber has inspired me.