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Motorcycles as Art: Old Iron – Young Blood

By Charlie Weisel

Photos by Shadow

Sturgis, a destination known for loud bikes, loud music and Black Hills motorcycling, is also the home to many other much more refined events. One of these in particular is the annual Michael Lichter Motorcycles as Art exhibit. Since the year 2000 Lichter has provided the patrons of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally with a free showing of some of the highest-quality motorcycle art in the world. This art takes shape not only in the form of a motorcycle but also in that of photography, graphic design, oil paintings, drawings and so much more. Every year is a theme and every year unique. For 2017 Michael chose a theme he called Old Iron – Young Blood.  The idea was to feature artists and builders, under the age of 36, that were changing the face of the motorcycle culture, to honor the younger generation and what they have to offer. This year, like the 16 years previous, was a show to behold. 

Upon stepping into the massive gallery, nestled neatly on the Buffalo Chip property, I could immediately feel the talent surrounding me. Not knowing entirely where to begin I chose to start with a lap around the perimeter and admire the oil paintings of Kayla Koeune, the photographs of Mikey “Revolt” Arnold, the drawings of Cory Jarmin and the list goes on and on, 14 in total.  Being a person who struggles to draw a well-proportioned stick figure I found myself in awe of the quality of what I was seeing. The paintings and photographs provided a clear look into the world of this year’s motorcycle culture, the way we live and breathe for the next adventure. It’s the sort of art that inspires us to continue living the good life, stick to the road less traveled and stray from the norm. It was refreshing and motivating to say the least.

From the walls, I moved through the thick crowd of admirers and worked my way to the interior of the gallery to peruse this year’s selection of motorcycles. Incredible. Of the 40 motorcycles on display I was unable to find one I did not like. Every bike was unique, well-crafted and an accurate representation of the artist behind the welding torch. What you will find at the exhibit is not only bikes from well-known builders but more importantly from the guys building these works of art in their garage, often after a long day’s work at their 9-to-5 job, and you would find it impossible to tell the difference. I think that is why I enjoy this event so much. More often than not we go to shows and look at bikes from famous, older builders who have already established a name for themselves. But what about the young builders? The ones just getting started? That was the idea behind this exhibition, to give the younger generation a chance to shine, a place to show off their talents and be appreciated. Many of these builders are in their early 20s, and I can only imagine what they will be producing in 20 years. Like always, Michael Lichter turned his vision into reality and the exhibition, in my opinion, was a huge success.

If you had the unfortunate experience of missing this year’s show I highly encourage you to attend in 2018. I am unsure of what his next theme will be but I have no doubt that it will meet or exceed the quality of the last 17 years. Until then, let’s do as Michael intended and continue fostering the growth of the next generation of bikers and builders. 

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