Indigenous Circle: Meet Sask. artist responsible for massive buffalo trail sculpture

Tucked away in a small valley west of Regina, Rich Loffler works to combine nature and art is his latest sculpture.

“I sculpt from life so that I can get life,” the artist told CTV News. “I want, when people look at my work, to say ‘I thought it moved.’”

Ever since he was a young boy, Loffler loved nature so much that he spent most of his days outdoors and eventually recreating the natural habitat at his job at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Regina.

“I did a lot of the dinosaurs there that are still on display,” he explained. “I just started doing other bigger animals like elk and moose.”

Loffler’s talent for capturing life led him to work on a unique international project, the biggest bronze sculpture he’s tackled so far.

The U.S. National Museum of Wildlife Art commissioned him to sculpt what is called the “Buffalo Trail” to be placed near the Jackson, Wyoming museum.

It was completed in 2012.

“Before you go up the road into the museum, the 67 foot long buffalo trail, one and a half life size, is sitting beside the highway,” Loffler explained.

Sculpting something of that magnitude involves many steps. Loffler started with a miniature version. Once satisfied, a mold is made similar to a hollow chocolate Easter Bunny.

(Gareth Dillistone/CTV News)

Some math is involved to enlarge the model and make it the size of the final work.

At the final stage the sculpture is dozens of pieces which are then bronzed and like a large 3D puzzle welded together and moved to its permanent location.

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Another creation by Rich Loffler. (Gareth Dillistone/CTV News)

The project took five years from beginning to end.

“For a Canadian kid to go down and put something of that magnitude in front of a federally recognized museum – I mean it’s phenomenal,” Loffler remarked.

Loffler’s vision of the buffalo project is drawn directly from his own vision of history, paying tribute to the animals and Indigenous people’s ties to the land. With scenes of buffalo roaming the plains are embedded in his mind.

“I wish I could just pop back into the middle of a prairie and see a buffalo herd running with either wolves chasing it or natives running it to a pound,” he said.

“I mean I live in the past. I do. I live 150 years ago with my work because I sculpt the same way they did back then.”

A passion for history brought to life through his mind, his hands, and a higher power.

“Oh I believe that God put me here for this purpose and this reason,” he said. “I’m trying to do the best I can and make him make him proud.”

When it comes to Loffler’s work in Regina. Much of it is in private collections. However, some can be viewed at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in the faces and animals of some exhibits.

Unlike Wyoming, his work is not on display in a big way. At least not yet.

The Buffalo Trail could one day be situated on Treaty 4 land as the forms to build it still exist.

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