Images of community members' hands are being sandblasted on to the west spire of the The Passage of Wind and Water sculpture at the entrance to Main Street Square in Rapid City, South Dakota. Photo by Karlee Moore
Lakota Continue To Inspire Sculptor
By Jim Kent
Lakota Country Times Correspondent
Rapid City, S.D. - The water sprinklers are on at Main Street Square and children are already running through them at 10 o’clock on a Friday morning. It’s about to be another very warm summer day in western South Dakota as Masayuki Nagase stands near his “home-away-from-home” since 2013.
The world-renowned sculptor has been working on “Passage of Wind and Water”, the largest privately-funded public art project in the country, through the summer’s frequently intense heat and even under the blanket of an early-fall snowstorm for 3 years.
In that time he’s carved - or sandblasted – images on 15 immense granite stones at what’s grown to be this town’s primary community gathering spot – Main Street Square.
Once a parking lot - that space was paved over, a sound stage (for live music), a speaker system (for music at other times), tables, chairs, portable fireplaces and an ice skating rink have been added to this one-quarter of a city block to offer a bevy of activities for those in and around the Rapid City area throughout the year.
Sculptor Masayuki Nagase has begun his 4th year of work on The Passage of Wind and Water project at Rapid City's Main Street Square Photo by Jim Kent
A variety of stores – from restaurants to a hobby shop – opened adjacent to “The Square” to supply the needs of those visiting the newest “place to be” in western South Dakota’s largest city.
But the key attraction each summer has been the figure of a Japanese man, generally bent over a piece of granite with a hammer and chisel in his hands as the vibrations of his creativity echo throughout downtown Rapid City.
Past the midway point in his 5-year sculpting project, four granite stones remain to be carved along with the two towering spires that mark the entrance to Main Street Square. “Yuki” Nagase will complete the stones this summer and begin work on one of the spires.
The remaining massive pieces of granite border the west section of The Square and are referred to by Nagase as “The Black Hills Tapestry Garden”, since the carvings on stone here reflect the cultural and scientific history of the Black Hills. Completed stones along the southern section of Main Street Square are called “The Badlands Tapestry Garden” and focus on the cultural and scientific history of that area of South Dakota.
The first stone carved for The Passage of Wind and Water sculpture project displays horse images and a horse's hoof. Photo by Karlee Moore
As in previous years, Nagase’s work will be reflected with the continuing theme of wind – for the Badlands, and water - for the Black Hills joining all the images he creates; with each stone telling a different story.
The first stone Yuki is working on this year tells the history of the horse and of the Lakota people.
“That is a very important aspect of change in their life in the past,” Nagase observes. “That’s one thing that’s strongly connected to Lakota culture.”
Nagase has pursued considerable research on the history and cultures of the Badlands and the Black Hills throughout his work on the project. As a result, the Lakota culture has played and will continue to play a key role in the images the sculptor creates.
“You can’t really avoid the relationship with Lakota and Lakota culture if you work with the theme of Black Hills,” Nagase explains, “because it is the heart if their land.”
Themes for the remaining stones include the history of wagon trains and the discovery of gold in the Black Hills.
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Yuki has also begun sandblasting the west spire where he’s placing images of handprints collected from community members. He noted that the spire will represent the all-encompassing story of nature and people in the Black Hills and the aspiration of all life to be in balance.
The sculptor invites the public to stop by and visit him. He usually works at Main Street Square on weekdays between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. and holds informal artist talks on Thursdays at noon.
Nagase’s work on the “Passage of Wind and Water” sculpture project continues into the fall.
(Jim Kent is a freelance writer and radio producer who lives in Hot Springs. He is a contributing columnist to the Lakota Country Times and former editor of The New Lakota Times. He can be heard on South Dakota Public Radio, National Public Radio and National Native News Radio. Jim can be reached at email@example.com)
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