Guys, I am absolutely delighted to share this interview with you! The experience of learning about and sharing Yarn Vandalette’s story was so uplifting and fun, that of course I wanted more. Instagram makes it super easy to connect, and interviews let you get to the good stuff, so I suppose it’s only natural that I would want to continue to use these platforms to share the inspiring work of some of my favourite guerrilla artists.
Today’s blog post is all about Montana Banksy, an anonymous artist who makes large-scale sculptures from natural materials that will literally stop you in your tracks!
Read on to learn and see more of her work:
Tell us about yourself and what you do:
As Montana Banksy, I make giant land art sculptures, anonymously, and in secret, out of colored river rocks and other natural materials. They are so big that you can walk across them! My largest so far is 35 feet across and I put them in places where people who are enjoying the outdoors might stumble across them by accident.
After a year or two, the river washes them away, or weeds and erosion overtake them, and then they are gone. Many of my pieces are animals, but the giant trout are what I’m most well known for because people who fish insist that they bring them good luck! I also make mandalas, compasses and spirals, and whatever else seizes my imagination.
I live in Montana, and my favorite place to work is along the banks of the Yellowstone River. The rocks are varied and beautiful and so is the scenery. And because of how many of my sculptures have anonymously appeared on the ‘banks’ of the Yellowstone River, a local blogger called me “our own Montana Banksy”, and the name stuck.
Now, I sign each piece I make with a signature stone that has a large, ornate ‘M’ on it, as well as the name of the piece and the year it was made. I do this in alcohol ink, so it fades with time along with the sculpture.
It is very fun and interesting to see what mother nature does to my art as time goes past. And never once has a sculpture of mine been vandalized by humans, though the signature stones do go missing a lot! 🙂
How many pieces have you made?
I think there are about 15 to 20 of my pieces still on the ground right now, and there are many more that exist only in photos now. It’s a cycle. I create them and Mother Nature erases them and gives me a fresh canvas with fresh rocks every time!
Tell us about your process…
It takes me anywhere from a week to complete the smaller pieces (under 8 feet) to an entire month to complete some of the larger ones (15-35 feet), which includes the days I spend collecting and stashing different colored rocks.
I like to try to drop the entire piece without ever being seen, so I don’t actually start to place the stones until I have amassed a large collection of rocks, ready to use. Then, I work fast to avoid being caught in the middle of construction. I also work fast to avoid Mother Nature interfering before I finish the piece.
A few years ago I was about halfway through a 15 foot horse, when the spring runoff hit the Yellowstone River and the horse went under before I finished it! So, needless to say, when I drop a piece I work as quickly as possible, and even so, it can still take me a many hours!
My biggest piece, at 35 feet, is the Medicine Wheel Compass, and just placing the stones for it took 40 hours. But, with the beautiful scenery and the river, those are easy hours for me!
How do people find your work?
Whenever I finish a new piece of art, I post it on Instagram with the GPS coordinates for the people who make a point of seeking them out like a treasure hunt.
Some people have told me that they like to try to guess where the installations are from the scenery in my videos. Other people ask me directly where they are (and I tell them!), and other times I have been nearby to witness someone unintentionally find one. That is the best!
Being able to interact with the people who find my art, without having to reveal my identity, is wonderful. People post them on social media a lot and someone will almost always comment “You found a Montana Banksy!” The comments are always so lovely and positive.
It fills me with joy knowing others enjoy my art so much too. Between my amazingly supportive husband, and sons, and the people who encourage me on Instagram, I get a lot of support to do what I do. I feel so lucky!
How did you get into this totally unique style of guerrilla art?
I have always been an artist. I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t drawing. But I come from a family of scientists and engineers, so I have deep interests in those subjects as well. So, I ended up leaving art school and got my BS in geology instead.
As a geologist, I spend a lot of time on the river looking at rocks. I used to fly fish, and really loved it, but I found myself spending more time playing with the rocks than fish, so I eventually told my husband to stop buying me the fishing license he got for me every year because I preferred to spend my time making rock sculptures! That was when my art started appearing pretty regularly on the shores of the Yellowstone and in the surrounding areas.
What has been the communities response?
I hadn’t thought to share my land art sculptures with anyone beyond the people who accidentally found them, until they showed up on the front page of the newspaper a few years ago! The caption said “…as of press time the artist is still unknown.” Ha! I could have claimed my art then, but I decided not to. I thought it would be more fun for people to NOT know who the artist was.
The response to my art was amazing though, and very touching! I had no idea how many people loved what I had been doing! That’s when I started the Instagram account so I could more effectively share my art. I didn’t really think it would get much attention as my sculptures are gigantic and an Instagram post shrinks them to tiny proportions! But, happily, I was wrong.
People from all over the world have told me how much they love what I do and how it inspires them. They send me photos of their daughters, inspired by my work, making art with rocks, and I get all misty eyed! There is nothing better than that for an artist! I really love doing this and have no intention of stopping any time soon. It makes people so happy, and gives me so much joy to do. It’s a win-win.
Each time I read through this I feel more imaginative and inspired; How about you? Thanks so much to Montana Banksy for taking the time to share her story and for all the positive, creative energy she’s putting out there. I feel lucky to share the good vibrations! Be sure to follow her work on Instagram @montanabanksy and definitely let us both know if you are inspired to rock some sculptures yourself! And if you follow any particularly great guerrilla artists who you’d like to hear more from- or are one yourself, hit me up! You knows I love hearing from you!