Art gems come to Hill City

Leslie Silverman

The 2021 Sculpture in the Hills Show and Sale featured a who’s who of artists from multiple locations and local art aficionados.
The artist’s reception, held June 18, was an opportunity to get to know some of the sculptors in a relaxed setting. Sue Quinlan from Boulder Colo., was inspired by her husband’s rock climbing to create rock climbing art, a  unique niche in the industry.
“I put him on a rock and gave it to him for Christmas I think. And we’ve got three  kids and seven grandchildren and so they had to have a family conference of who wants this piece of art or that piece of art,” Quinlan said. “They all wanted the rock art. So I said ‘why don’t I just make a whole series of them?’”
Quinlan has some rock climbers perched on rock that is from the Black Hills. Her climbers are mostly brass or aluminum and use a clay form that is cast in wax.
Scott Luken of Yankton uses hard rock to create his granite sculptures.
The backside of his Exclamation Point sculpture has the natural outer block texture when it comes out of the quarry. The way they quarried rocks back then was drilling a series of holes and blasted the block out, which isn’t done anymore.
His pieces are enormous and require a lift in his van to move. He uses everything from diamond saws to carbide chisels and hammers,  pneumatic hammers and chisels and even sandblasting.
“There are so many tools involved with working with granite because it’s very hard stone and you  have to be really aggressive when you work it which can be a detriment too because if you’re too aggressive it can break on you or something  can happen that you don’t necessarily want to happen,” Luken said. “It’s almost like playing  chess which I don't play, because you have to think three steps ahead.”
Luken won Best in Show. Show judge Dale Lamphere described Luken’s artistic ability as “unique surface design and texture that he creates on the pieces. He has a distilled form when it comes to things  that are more on a realistic nature.”
Luken has been working with granite his whole life. His family was in the monument business and he started sculpting as an early teenager.
“This is so exciting. It’s an opportunity artists don’t get very often especially with the caliber of show that’s here,” he said.
A self-taught artist, he watched older men chisel and learned his craft. His granite comes from Minnesota, Georgia and the Millbank Quarry in South Dakota.
Luken was looking forward to coming to Sculpture on the Hills. Like many artists COVID-19 has meant scarcity of materials and greater costs to produce their wares.
“I was so much looking forward to coming to this show. It’s one of the greatest,”  he said. “This is awesome.”

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