MCCOOK COUNTY, S.D. (KELO) — As you drive along Interstate 90 in eastern South Dakota, you’ll find the Porter Sculpture Park in McCook County.
“Exit 374, one-quarter mile south, dragon sign, just follow the road down, and you’ll have found yourself in a rabbit hole,” owner and sculptor Wayne Porter said.
Porter made all these sculptures. He also gives credit to his dog Bambino.
“My dog and I run this place,” Porter said. “My dog’s the brains, but I have the opposable thumb. Opposable thumb will get you a long way.”
The park has been open here since 2000. Porter says he does this because it needs to happen.
“Why do people climb those stupid mountains? That’s crazy, but they do it,” Porter said. “I read a book, I was trying to figure all this out myself. I read a book called The Creative Brain, and things have to be done.”
This artist from Hand County says art is about saying something.
“Art, no matter what type of art, is about communication, and so that’s the nearest I can come to it,” Porter said. “But clearly people who are writers, poets, artists, they’re trying to communicate.”
Dan Santella: And what are you trying to communicate?
“If I knew that, life would be more clear for me,” Porter said.
This little nook on the rolling hills of the prairie is a study of contrasts: the still permanence of these sculptures set up against the backdrop of Interstate 90 guiding travelers across KELOLAND and well beyond.
“I love the prairie, I’m from the prairie,” Porter said. “I used to have a sheep ranch in the prairie, I love to hear the meadowlarks, I love to watch the sheep, the gophers, I like to see badgers, I like the wildflowers, I like the wind. There’s nothing I don’t like about the prairie except the storms.”
“It’s something that we didn’t expect in the middle of farmland,” Kim Postlewaite said.
Kim Postlewaite and her son Beckett are from the San Francisco area.
“Initially, it’s pretty whimsical, and then it kind of takes a little dark turn at some point, so it was a little bit of a surprise,” Kim Postlewaite said. “But that’s, kind of adds to it, it’s kind of fun, parts of it feels a little bit like The Nightmare Before Christmas, so that kind of funky, a little spooky, but not like gory.”
“Kind of reminds me of Far Side by Gary Larson, yeah … it’s like weird, funny, and a bit dark,” Beckett Postlewaite said.
“Pretty, with like the way that they are up against the open land, it’s a neat look,” Kim Postlewaite said. “It’s something you don’t see, definitely don’t see anywhere near where we live.”
Porter says “thousands of people come” to the park annually, where they see pieces like these goldfish.
“I used to have a goldfish bowl, and goldfish are so tranquilizing, and people get them and just watch them swim back and forth, back and forth,” Porter said. “So it’s a cheap button, but I like goldfish.”
Then there’s this hand with both a thorn and a butterfly.
“How pain and joy can coexist, but neither hang around forever,” Porter said. “Butterflies fly away, thorns are pulled.”
Experiences and perspectives change with time, too, and they highlight where an artist is at that point.
“I have pieces here that are 40 years old. In those days I was into horror movies,” Porter said. “I don’t like horror movies anymore, but I got some pieces here I would not do again, but I don’t cut them up, I leave them on the trail because they’re like part of my diary.”
Memories that stay with him and the people who pass by.
“It’s fun, it adds a memory to this trip,” Kim Postlewaite said. “We will not forget this.”