Most people are familiar with the expression, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” This old adage is especially true for people like me who love vintage shops, consignment stores, and thrift retailers. As much as I enjoy wandering through these types of places and pondering which items could be upcycled to something new, I have never thought of what could be made with items from a pile of scrap metal.
There are a couple of reasons for this, but the main one is that I’m just not interested in digging outside for anything. The other reason is that snakes, rats, wasps and bees are not as likely to be inside the stores as they are in discarded piles of metal. But in my travels, I have had the good fortune to meet a “real live” artist whose primary medium is scrap metal.
John Lopez grew up on a ranch outside of Lemmon, S.D. Naturally creative, he discovered his talent for sculpting bronze in college. His was commissioned to sculpt 12-life-sized bronze statues for Rapid City’s City of Presidents project. His talent for seeing potential in scrap metal came as he was building a family cemetery and needed material for a fence. Instead of purchasing traditional material, Lopez went through the scrap pile and combined scrap metal with bronze for a fence that got everyone’s attention.
His hybrid metal art was soon in demand. Out of rusty hubcaps, sawblades, car fenders and chains, Lopez creates life-sized sculptures that tell their own stories. A sculpture of Ed Lemmon, founder of Lopez’s hometown sits proudly atop his sculpted horse in Boss Cowman Square. A gift and a tribute to his hometown, Lopez gathered the majority of the materials from the scrap metal piles of his friends and neighbors in the area. (Every ranch seems to have a pile of scrap metal.) The sculpture celebrates the rugged toughness of the people who live there.
Lopez eloquently addressed the nature of finding his materials saying, “In every scrap pile, I find something unique or interesting I want to incorporate, so the dynamics of the sculpture are always changing. I can’t plan too much. I’ve got to be open to letting the materials go where they will.”
I am not a mystic, nor a theologian, but I find so many pertinent truths in that statement. Dynamics are always changing in every aspect of life- in work, in friendships, in families. Unfortunately, nothing is constant. Even though we love the idea of permanence. Instead of permanence, maybe we can shift our perspective to one of hopefulness. Maybe when others see a scrap pile, we can see beauty and uniqueness and potential in a person or in a situation. Seek the treasures. Find the good.
Weekly columnist. Feature Writer.