October 4 - December 31, 2013
The Sherman Gallery
Jay Polite Laber transforms junk into art. By cleverly and artistically welding parts from old, rusted, wrecked automobiles, he is able to create amazingly lifelike metal sculptures that capture an energized moment in time and project the emotion and memories of his tribe’s culture and history.
Born on the Blackfeet reservation of northwestern Montana, Jay later moved to New Hampshire with his family after a flood destroyed their home in Montana. He later returned there as an adult to find his roots.
As a student at Salish Kootenai College, in Pablo, Montana, Jay began to explore artistic ideas and discovered ways to use readily available materials from the surrounding environment - utilizing a principle of Native American tradition, “...that you make use of what's available to you in your natural environment.”
He began to collect man-made objects, such as parts from junked cars he found in the fields and back roads of the Flathead reservation that had long ago been abandoned, to use as the raw materials for his sculptures. He created his first monumental metal sculptures, while he was still a student. He calls his work, "Reborn Rez Wrecks."
He sold his first recycled warrior to his art instructor at that time. His success began to spring forth as he won the "People's Choice" award at the American Indian Higher Education Consortium's annual conference in Billings, Montana in 1999 with a larger-than-life bison sculpture. This work was later purchased by Westphalian State University in Muenster, Germany.
Laber’s memory of the flood that destroyed his family's home inspired a sculpture for which he was commissioned by his native Blackfeet Reservation. In 2000, he completed work on eight life-size warriors on horseback from metal recovered from wrecked cars left deserted along nearby riverbanks by the 1963 flood. His Blackfeet Reservation Sentries, carefully crafted from relics of the past, now stand guard at the four entrances to the Reservation.
Much of Jay's present work is done on a commission basis, among which is his recently completed sculpture, "A Warrior's Offering," which he designed for the Rocky Boy's Reservation in north-central Montana. Another recent work, "Two Left Feet Dancing Free," was purchased by the town of Stevensville, Montana.
From October 21 to 25 Jay will be the Holter's fourth 2013 Cultural Crossroads Artist-in-Residence, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, which will provide educational programs at the Museum for Helena middle school students.
This exhibition and the Cultural Crossroads Artist-in-Residence Program are generously sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Montana Arts Council, the Montana Cultural Trust, and members of the Holter Museum of Art.
Image: Jay Laber, Swift Fox, metal sculpture, 2004, Montana Historical Society, 2005.17.01