A few weeks ago, I helped move my mom from Sioux Falls to Rapid City, traveling west on I-90, I see an enormous metal sculpture of a bull’s head and I am reminded of visiting Porter’s Sculpture Park a few years ago with my husband and stepson. I knew I had to share our experience and share owner/artist/sculpture Wayne Porter’s story to the readers of “Through The Lens” for this edition.

A completely bizarre and slightly sinister roadside attraction that I found absolutely wonderful. Porter Sculpture Park is located just off I-90 in Montrose, South Dakota. It is on the South Dakota Drift Prairie, only a quarter of a mile from the Interstate. There are over fifty sculptures in the Park which is situated on ten acres of land. When we arrived that day, Wayne warned us about a bat colony that was living inside the bull’s head. We didn’t know that he was really setting us up for a scare when we entered and looked up for the bats. I nearly peed my pants when I walked in and looked up. There’s a life-size humanoid that hangs above just as you enter. Wayne’s art is infused with a gleeful love of scaring people. This isn’t your average art experience, you are encouraged to explore, touch and climb on the sculptures and take all the photos you want, plus it is pet friendly. As Wayne spends his time welcoming visitors with his albino dog Bambino by his side, who loves attention!

On that day with a heat index of a hundred degrees this still was an amazing place. As an artist I can so appreciate what it took this man to put all of this together, blood, sweat, and lots of time. There was so much detail and from every angle a different perspective with these sculptures. Wayne is an animated, eccentric character and it shows in his art. Its outsider art made from metal mostly, sheet metal and angle iron, old car parts, hardware, just about anything that can be welded, and the themes range from whimsical to borderline frightening, very much like Tim Burton’s, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” movie.

Now strait-laced visitors driving by may see a roadside collection of disturbing junk both miniature and giant, but the husband & I were in awe. Now if you just casually stroll through the park and see the unique sculptures as dark, gothic and eccentric, and don’t stop and study each one you will truly miss the little details and slightly hidden objects within or on the exterior of many of the sculptures. And Wayne’s vision extends to poetry which he has hand-painted on signs around the park. These little bits of poetry offer explanations of some of the sculptures, and a glimpse into his mind.


Besides the sixty foot Egyptian bull head I talked about earlier that my stepson James loved, as he thought it was hilarious that it startled me, with it’s sculptured bats hanging inside and spiders, along with a few other unique things that I will not give away, so that you may experience for yourselves. A few pieces stood out for me, but the giant yellow hand with a beautiful butterfly resting on the tip of a finger and a red thorn sticking in the palm was a favorite. The sign reads, “Pain and Joy can co-exist but neither stays forever, butterflies fly away thorns are pulled”. Two other pieces I was drawn to, more for the poetry than the sculptures themselves, The Hunt and Mirror Image. “If the wild dog does not attack the wild boar the dog may starve, If he does attack, he may not survive for all of us, life is a series of choices, but sometimes things come down to one choice.” “History is the biography of the human mind. People, like wild boars are more alike than they are different, yet they attack each other. With wild boars, it is in the genes.” I found at times while we gazed at and studied each sculpture, I was more moved by the poetry that Wayne had put with each sculpture.

I did not get the chance to ask Wayne in person about his story of how the sculpture park came to be, as I was not writing back then, but from his social media pages he shares his bio and the stories behind the sculptures as he sees thousands of visitors every season and is asked often about his art background.

Wayne started life on a farm in Hand County, SD where his father and grandfather farmed together. When Wayne was four years-old, his family relocated to St. Lawrence, a small town of 200 people where Wayne’s father decided to change occupations to support his growing family. Wayne’s father decided to become a blacksmith, and he bought the St. Lawrence Blacksmith Shop, a business that had been operating since the late 1800’s.

Growing up, Wayne and his four siblings spent a lot of time at his father’s blacksmith shop. He made his first sculpture when he was 10, a small bull’s head. He used a cutting torch to carve it from iron and then he drilled a hole at the top so that he could wear it around his neck. His father taught him how to weld when he was 12 and after that he began making larger sculptures, welded together


with found metal.

Wayne graduated from Miller High School in 1978 and then attended college at SDSU in Brookings, SD. He began college as a Biology major but changed his emphasis to graduate from SDSU in 1982 with degrees in Political Science and History. He was accepted at the USD law school in Vermillion but decided instead to return to St. Lawrence and raise sheep and continuing to work on larger and larger sculptures in his father’s Blacksmith Shop. Eventually, he sold the sheep and focused exclusively on his art. He decided he was better suited to working on a sixty-foot, twenty-five-ton sculpture over the course of three years than he was to raising sheep. When he would finish a sculpture, he placed it by the blacksmith shop on the side of Main Street in St. Lawrence. Word spread through town and beyond, and he began to get traffic coming off of Hwy 14. People wanted to see the sculptures they had heard about from friends. When he had more sculptures than fit the space, Wayne began to envision a sculpture park out in the open. When land became available in Montrose, he was able to transport his sculptures there and open the Porter Sculpture Park. Wayne has never taken an art class. Except for the basic blacksmithing he learned from his father; Wayne’s art skills are entirely self-taught.

By his own admission, Wayne is terrible at math as well as drawing. He makes all his sculptures, some several stories high, without relying on diagrams or equations. Instead he builds them based on instinct, even the largest. Wayne built his signature sixty-foot, twenty-five-ton, Bull’s Head in two massive parts, one for the base and one for the

ears. It is made of individual railroad ties welded together. When each component arrived at the Porter Sculpture Park, Wayne had never tested them to see if they would fit together as planned. When the crane operator lifted the ears up toward the Bull Head, he asked Wayne if an engineer had run the numbers to be sure the parts would fit. Wayne said, “no, but it’ll work,” and sure enough the ears fit perfectly.


In the fall of 2000, he opened Porter Sculpture Park, the sculpture park now has more than fifty sculptures, created by Wayne, along with the poetry that accompanies many of the pieces. In the off season, he works on making more sculptures in the same blacksmith shop where he learned to weld. His pieces are majestic, whimsical, thought provoking, and readily display the influences of the South Dakota prairies that he grew up on and also reflect his quick wit, humor, and diverse interests.

Wayne shares, “The Magic Dragon, otherwise known as the Red Dragon, was my first large sculpture in the early 1980’s. It is called the Magic Dragon, because at its previous site, couples got engaged under it. The arms and head are moveable, and controlled from inside the body, where an adult can fit comfortably. It is made of disc blades on the front torso, auger tubes for the legs, a vacuumator tube for the neck, which is flexible, (all of which are used in farming) and eighth inch plate. The eyes are made from earrings, women’s jewelry. The kids of Hand County and particularly St. Lawrence, grew up with this.”

“The Anatomy of a Dragon, I call this sculpture “Smell the Roses While You Can.” The head is an antique peddle car that I found at my grandparent’s farm. My Dad told me to cut up our old family car, so I did. I rearranged it and that car, along with a few other things, is what makes up this sculpture.

The arms and legs are made from the frame of the car, as is the breastbone. The hind end is the bumper of the car with the original South Dakota license plate the ribs are made from truck leaf springs that I got from a customer and friend who lived in the Wessington area. The vertebrae are made from sickle guard parts and the teeth are sickle guards.

The red flower is a cultivator shovel with the edges cut off. When I look at this sculpture, I see remnants of my family, my friends, my neighborhood, and my life at the time.”

Art, no matter what type of art, is about communication and that is simply what Wayne Porter is doing with his sculptures. With fall here and winter fast approaching, the sculpture park is closed but will be welcoming visitors come May. I encourage you to travel and see for yourself, either alone, with friends or even your family, young and old alike will take away a visual experience that will leave a positive impact on you, and isn’t that worth the drive!

Writing this column has taken me on a journey of sorts, I never expected to get comments from time to time and it is humbling. Want to share your thoughts, feelings or even have a story idea; I would love to hear from you. Please email me,, and thanks for reading!