2020 Heavy Mettle Exhibition
In contrast to past MAA exhibitions, “Heavy Mettle” will be presented over two-years, with this first show labeled the “Unlocked Edition.” 2021 will follow with another edition titled “More Mettle” in which all brand-new bikes will be debuted. Taken together, these two shows will help put these builders and their bikes into historical context.
This one-time collection of motorcycles was complemented with more than 80 works from three moto-artists whose careers have similarly withstood these same trials and challenges. David Uhl and Scott Jacobs displayed paintings, almost all originals, while Michael Lichter will be showing photographs made during the Sturgis rally going back to the 1970’s.
“This was to be a big year for me,” said Michael Lichter, curator and producer of the Buffalo Chip’s Motorcycles as Art exhibit. “It was the 80th anniversary of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, was my 40th year to come to Sturgis and the 20th year of producing motorcycle themed exhibitions during the rally. The builders and fellow artists chosen to display bikes in this momentous show not only have the spirit of creativity and entrepreneurship, but the moxie it takes to become noted figures in an industry rife with heavy mettle characters.”
Faced with the knowledge that half of all businesses fail in the first five years, it is evident these motorcycle aficionados have fought hard to become successful and legendary well beyond the confines of the industry. “The builders in this year’s exhibit are the guys with enough persistence to have stuck with it through thick and thin,” said Rod Woodruff, Sturgis Buffalo Chip President. “They’ve produced some of the most amazing machines the world has ever seen. No one should miss the opportunity to see this exceptional display of collective moto-genius. The opportunity is offered for just seven days, and then it’s gone forever.” Thankfully, it was also preserved dugutally and is so presented to your through the web.
Special thanks to this years sponsors including our title sponsor Russ Brown Motorcycles Attorneys, and Black Out Design, BMW Motorrad, Daily Direct Haul Bikes, Hot Leathers, Klock Werks, Legend Suspension, Motorbike Expo, S&S Cycles.
35 galleries"Heavy Mettle - Motorcycles and Art with Moxie" shows the staying power of this incredible group of builders and artists. Each of the 35-builders (and two fellow artists) that I invited to join me in this exhibition have been in the business for at least 20-years. Some have over 50 under their belt. They are at least 40 years old, several are septuagenarians and one is an octogenarian (Ron Finch at 81). They have built at least 20-custom bikes, and some have built hundreds. What is clear is that they have stood up to harsh economic and industry pressures, through recessions and now a pandemic, to keep their hat's in the ring. Whether the years were lean or fat, driven by their passion, they just had to keep going, and now here they are! Who would have thought when we started out that we would all show our work together in an art gallery? We didn’t get in it for the money, and indeed not fame. We couldn't even conceive of this as a possibility back then! In the beginning, I just rode my bike and took photos of what I saw. It was all new, fun, and I loved it. I never really had a plan (and certainly not a business plan), but rather, just put one foot in front of the other and kept going. As it turned out, I was in it for the long haul and look, I'm still going, and I still love it. I mention this only because I believe every person represented by their art and custom motorcycles in this room has a similar story.
137 imagesThe photographs you see here were taken just before the opening of the exhibition. It shows all 35 custom bikes in place on their respective pedestals, and artwork on the walls (although a few pieces of art didn’t get hung until after I made these images.) If you have never been to the gallery at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip, without these photos, it would be hard to imagine a gallery oasis like this in the middle of Sturgis. It is located just next to the East Gate of the Buffalo Chip and since I moved my exhibition there in 2009, it has always been free to the public. Each year, the arrangement changes as do all the bikes and artwork on the walls, according to the theme for that year. Because of this, there is a new exhibition title and logo each year. Unlike other shows that get to market what they do and build on past years, I have to start from scratch every year. Clearly, this wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but it does keep it fresh every year.
31 imagesI have always been more comfortable with my brushes and a pencil than with my words. Perhaps my infatuation with creating visual imagery is somehow related to a deficit lurking in my left hemisphere. I have always been extremely fascinated with drawing and its inherent gifts about the nature of reality and its perception. I have found that endeavoring to draw has always been an enlightening injunction to discovering how the entire process actually happens. Starting with the mechanics and magic of light, building upon an understanding of structure, perspective and proportion. I believe all these inherent questions being answered has allowed me the opportunity to play. The process of rendering what I see, can then be transformed into a personal form of expression. With years invested in a proficiency in handling different mediums, I have become relatively comfortable with my craft (watercolor may take more lifetimes). Following the trajectory of attempting to master this process, I needed to direct my forces to a chosen subject matter. I have always been exceptionally moved by peering back through history, from the extreme ancient millennia to the more recent American centuries. My public oil painting career actually began in 1998 when I encountered archives and rich visual documentation of The Harley-Davidson Motor Co. I realized no artist had yet broached these beautiful old black and white images. My intent was to paint these wonderful snapshots in time with a technique/style reminiscent of the artists of the time. In studying oil painters, my favorites are all rooted around the turn of the last century… Incredible masters like Sargent, Sorrolla, and Zorn. My goal was to have paintings that appeared timeless, classic, not pieces you could connect with our more recent sensations in biker culture. Hence, my body of work has focused on events starting half a century ago and earlier. Looking in retrospect, the last few years have evolved into creating some exploratory compositions, playing off the antiquities but with a modern theme. The Steampunk series is a good example of this. I have also enjoyed integrating some of more current industry personalities into my depictions of historically relevant fictional events. Such as, Kevin Bean’re as the innovative thief in “Iron Horse Heist” and the late Jesse Combs as the WAVE, wrenching on her WLA. After all these 22-years of me having fun with Motorcycle Art, I think one of my clients summed up my work best with this saying: "Somewhere between a dream and a Memory”. Thank you all for dreaming along with me! David Uhl (2020) See more of David's work at uhlstudios.com
17 imagesWith a career now spanning three decades and counting, artist Scott Jacobs has consistently reached and then surpassed new heights. First recognized by Harley-Davidson Motor Company for his artistic talent, he was signed by them to a long-term fine art program in 1993. Since then, Scott has expanded into different genres entering himself into the mainstream of the fine art community. Included on that list is imagery of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Corvette, Ford GT and Mustang, exotic cars, wine still life’s, flowers, and many more. The common theme of his work; regardless of the subject is his hyper-photorealism. It is his mastery of this style that has enamored audiences around the globe. People from the West Coast to Eastern Europe and beyond enjoy his work as it currently hangs in more than 90 countries and has been displayed in over 30 museums. Scott’s medium of choice is acrylic and oil paint on Belgian linen and his tool is a paintbrush smaller than a pencil. Scott works from photographs but draws each and every subject out freehand with a pencil. He then begins the blocking in process and blending of multiple colors to achieve the desired values for a particular work. It is an arduous procedure that few artists would dare undertake. His reward is witnessing his collectors’ reaction when they see the finished product for the first time. With that, Scott has had a career of success few artists can claim. After years of achievement as an artist, Scott decided to get back into the retail business by opening a large gallery in Deadwood, SD called the “Jacobs Gallery”. This is a place where the public can view Scott’s originals, large collection of vintage motorcycles, limited edition prints, and his very own apparel line. The gallery also includes a studio where Scott paints when he’s not traveling the world making appearances. Scott Jacobs (2020) See more of Scott's work at www.jacobsgalleryshop.com
I'm not sure why I bought a stripped-down Shovelhead in 1977, but I do know this purchase changed my life.With camera around my neck, I set out on several cross-country trips and, by 1980, was shooting events and custom bikes for Easyriders Magazine. Assignments eventually since resulted in more than 1,000 published features on the best customs, 39 Sturgis Bike Weeks, nearly the same of Daytona, and numerous other events around the USA, Canada, Mexico, Japan, and Europe. These assignments have made it possible for me to document the biker lifestyle for four decades. It also led to commercial work in the motorcycle industry, calendars, 11 coffee table books, and the series of limited-edition images from which the prints hanging here are examples.
Since I bought that first Harley, custom motorcycles have become immensely popular and evolved considerably, as has the culture surrounding them. It was once thought of as something for outlaws and renegades, but by the mid-1980s, perceptions changed, and it became not only socially acceptable to pull up all clad in leather looking tough on a big Harley, it became cool! Motorcycle gatherings grew in number and attendance, and for better or worse, they became more organized and commercial into the 2000s. The days when "we just pulled over to the side of the road, and after a little partying we'd sleep where we fell" as Sonny Barger, a past president of the Oakland Hells Angels wrote, seemed to disappear in seemingly direct correlation to the attention motorcycles received on television.
Year after year, motorcycling grew year after year until the 2008 crash. All bets were off. Both riders and the motorcycle industry suffered a big hit. The outlook seemed bleak, but thankfully, beneath the surface, a new generation was coming of age with a different set of interests, concerns, priorities, and ways of being. A revival is underway with less regard for what people ride and the accouterments of the culture, and more attention is given the things that count, like getting out to ride and sharing the experiences with friends.