Grantee:  Bennett Brien
Native Citizenship:  Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa
Location:  Belcourt, N.D.
Award:  2015 NACF Regional Artist Fellowship
Discipline:  Visual Arts
Web Site:  None;

Well respected and recognized in his community and state for his artwork, Bennett Brien’s life resembles that of a humble warrior. Content to live a modest lifestyle, his life and work revolve around family and community. Brien’s work echoes the past icons of the American Plains Indian culture that remain just as powerful then as they are today.

Bennett Brien creates large-scale sculptures made out of rebar. His work reinforces the sense of strength in his subjects by the use of this material; represents the majestic nostalgia of the vast plains by their size; and is solidly tied to the cultural roots of his heritage and the region, which is reflected in their meaning. He is special in a world of modernity and blended diversity because he keeps his life deeply connected to the values of Native pride, in part, by depicting some of the most notable icons of the Ojibwe and Northern Plains tribes, such as the buffalo, turtle, horse and other wildlife.

Brien knows and understands the tumultuous Native history of the Northern Plains—he lived through some of it—and his sculptures honor that history. To this day, his work continually reflects through symbolism the significant past. His sculptures are mounted in Polk Country Museum, North Dakota State Capitol, University of North Dakota, North Dakota Scenic Highway 43 and Sky Dancer Casino in North Dakota, to name just a few.

Within the strength and beauty of his sculpture there is an intricacy to the work that inspires awe if one closely examines it—a juxtaposition between the use and perception of raw iron. The same counterpoint could be applied to some of his controversial work, such as the Fighting Sioux logo. One might say regarding Brien that his life, personality and work echoes living honorably.

Brien will create a sculpture for his hometown, Belcourt, during his Regional Artist Fellowship. There is no sculpture in Belcourt and seems to him like there should be one as a representation of the origin of his inspiration and his sculpture creations.

There’s always something Native that is recognizable in my work.
~ Bennett Brien