Michael Binkley Half-way Across North America Enroute to Europe

Michelle and I are half-way across the USA tonight, stopping in Rockford, IL. Two days ago, we drove through the eastern half of Montana, and were impressed with the expansive vistas from the highway. In places, it seemed one could almost see forever. We clipped the corner of Wyoming, before getting into the western border of South Dakota. This is the Black Hills and home of both the Crazy Horse Memorial and Mt. Rushmore.

I have read about the Crazy Horse Memorial, a dream of Polish-American sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski & Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear – a mountain of pegmatite granite carved into a sculpture of Lakota leader, Crazy Horse astride his steed. Ziolkowski began work on the project in 1940 and above is how it looks today. To give you perspective, the horse’s head (drawn in white on the mound to the right, above) is over 200 feet tall. Pictured are three Lakota hoop dancers on the viewing deck.

michael binkley sculptpr stone sculpture crazy horse mount rushmore vancouver

Above left, Michelle and Mylie stand in front of the 1/34 scale plaster model of the memorial. Right is a shot of the interesting granite formations of Black Hills from the car.

michael binkley sculptpr stone sculpture crazy horse mount rushmore vancouver

As a stone sculptor, I can appreciate the sheer massive scale of the project, and it is taking a long time to finish. Expense is a key factor, but the Ziolkowski family (Korczak passed away in 1982) has formed a foundation to maintain a lasting legacy for the Lakota Nation and finance the completion of the project. Check the link above for more info. I inspected the granite samples up close and I don’t think it is a pleasant granite to carve!

michael binkley sculptpr stone sculpture crazy horse mount rushmore vancouver

Ziolkowski was an accomplished artist, working in stone and bronze. Above left is one of his favourite pieces, on display in the living room of his former house on the property. Right is his studio, with several marble sculptures shown. The sun was beaming into the dark room, flashing on a female torso. I’ll have to do more research to find out how Ziolkowski worked, though I suspect he worked in the traditional way of pointing from a maquette, as opposed to direct carving. We were impressed with his figurative work, though we got the sense that he was a portrait artist first and foremost. Nonetheless, it was wonderful for me to get a glimpse into another sculptor’s creative space. Like me, I get the sense that Rodin was an influence on him.

michael binkley sculptpr stone sculpture crazy horse mount rushmore vancouver

And of course, just around the corner from Crazy Horse is Mt. Rushmore. Michelle was impressed with her first visit. I was both impressed once again witnessing Gutzon Borglum’s masterpiece, (carved from 1927 – 1941) and saddened by the commercialism that has sprung up since my visit in 1990. The National Parks has created a barrier structure designed to funnel tourist dollars in order to safely see the sculpture and there is a growing “town” of a tourist trap at the mountain base.

Our journey across the rest of South Dakota and southern Minnesota seemed only to put miles under our belts. The landscape was flat, featureless and the cross winds were brutal. To Minnesota’s credit, they are taking advantage of these winds with huge wind farms of thousands of turbines that are interspersed within the traditional agricultural farms.

We crossed the Mississippi River, traveled down through Wisconsin and are now just inside Illinois. I’ll end this post with a Wisconsin I90 freeway funny.

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