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Star quilt featured in 50-foot ‘Dignity’ sculpture

SHARON COX Art Voices > She casts her peaceful gaze across the waters of the Missouri River. During the day, the South Dakota wind brushes the diamonds in her star quilt, causing blue shades to twinkle in the sunlight. At night, she stands illumi...

 

SHARON

COX

Art Voices

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She casts her peaceful gaze across the waters of the Missouri River. During the day, the South Dakota wind brushes the diamonds in her star quilt, causing blue shades to twinkle in the sunlight. At night, she stands illuminated and strong. She is Dignity.” Descriptions using words hardly compare to the beauty of the gigantic silver beam cast by this beautiful, quiet, yet dynamic woman and her quilt.

Designed by Dale Lamphere and erected in September 2016, the 50-foot stainless steel “Dignity: Earth and Sky” sculpture depicts a Native American woman in Plains-style clothing holding a star quilt behind her back. The elegant figure looks over the Missouri River in Chamberlain, S.D., and represents the courage and wisdom of the Lakota and Dakota people.

If you search the web, you’ll find many sites that describe both the sculpture, the artist and Norm McKie, the South Dakota businessman who commissioned Lamphere to design and make it. The figure is quiet and beautiful, but not a young and beautiful woman. She is a learned woman, a tribal leader, one with miles of living in her past. She is that perfect age of wisdom and energy, midway her earthly journey, when she can lead from experience and decisions are not made without thought to all consequences. The symbols are close to home for all people: the clothing that fits the locale, the quilt of home and union, and the simplicity of life, as life has been, is and will be. That’s what the sculptor wanted to say.

“A star quilt has traditionally been used to honor people,” Lamphere said in an interview given in 2014. “And this is an honoring of our Native community here in South Dakota. It is meant very much to be that.”

Lamphere also plans to inscribe the names of every federally recognized tribe around the base of the statue.

The sculpture shows a woman, dressed as if for pow wow, either stop-action in dance, or throwing her quilt (the ultimate gift) around her shoulders. You can almost hear the drummers by looking at her stance. Despite the stillness of the piece, it is also dynamic in its pent-up movement. The quilt is both steel and glass, which includes 128 4-foot-tall glass diamonds. Lamphere chose the paints carefully, with half of the diamonds being a dark blue while the other half are lighter.

The colors shift in intensity depending on the time of day. “In the shadows or at night, that dark blue looks really dark blue. And when the sun hits it, it will lighten up,” said Brook Loobey, who painted the glass diamonds. In a 2016 interview Loobey said the glass diamonds also spin when the wind passes through them thus reducing the statue’s wind resistance.

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Lamphere consulted with Native Americans when designing “Dignity.” It was wellreceived by the Native peoples.

“It’s just amazing. It’s beautiful. It’s a great honor for our people. I’m happy that someone would think to do this in honor of us,” Doree Jensen, a native of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, told the Rapid City Journal when the statue was unveiled.

And South Dakota as a whole seems to agree. In July, drivers in South Dakota could begin ordering license plates bearing the statue.

Please check lampherestudio.com/dignity website as well as other “Dignity” websites for more information on the sculpture, the artist and the tribal responses to this beautiful addition to the world of art.

If anyone has an item for “Art Voices,” please contact Sharon Cox at PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559.

 

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