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 Bull’s Head in two massive parts, one for the base and one for the ears. 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.
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 then 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 spends his time out there with all of the visitors and his albino dog Bambino who loves attention!