Hi-Line Living: Welcome to the Insectatorium


February 7, 2014

Lindsay Brown

Corey Holmes holds one of his scrap-metal sculptures at his home workshop, which he calls the "Insectatorium" and is located north of Havre. This piece includes a ceramic ball from the Havre water plant.

Corey Holmes, in his time away from his job at Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, creates metal sculptures that can be found in numerous states.

People may have seen Holmes' metal sculptures without knowing what they were looking at while driving along the highways in Montana and other states.

Holmes has collected pieces of scrap metal, welded them together and attached them to the tops of around 750 fenceposts in 17 states and two provinces, but he did not have to put up all these sculptures.

Sometimes friends of his have taken road trips, Holmes said, and he would ask them to set up some of his artwork along their journey.

The sculptures are made up of many different things. Railroad scrap metal, bullet shell casings, a piano tuner, hardwood flooring nails, a drill bit, a ceramic ball from the Havre water plant and parts from a road grader were some of the items that made up just one of his structures. Close inspection of any of his fence-post sculptures will uncover odd metal pieces that may or not be recognizable. Each sculptureshas a label and his signature somewhere on the piece.

"They're made out of parts from real life," Holmes said.

Holmes said the sculptures are connected to the fence-posts is in such a way that anyone trying to steal or remove them has to work for it. The sculptures are connected to the posts by a large screw designed to not come out.

Not everyone appreciates the sculptures, Holmes said. In an area near Big Sandy, German Lutherans on their way to church noticed sculptures erected on fence-posts one day, when they had not been there the day before. Convinced they were curses on the fields the fence posts surrounded, they took them down.

Beyond the fence-post sculptures, Holmes makes many more pieces, sometimes much larger.

One of Holmes' larger pieces can be seen in Havre's Town Square - the metal bison. Another large piece is a spider sitting on top of the roof of a residence off 5th Avenuesouth of the Dairy Queen.

Holmes has been creating this kind of art since 1999, since he began picking up pieces of metal.

A very common motif of his artwork is insects. The workshop outside his home north of Havre is called the "Insectatorium" and is where his plasma cutter, torches, welders and other tools he uses to work the metals are housed.

He said part of the reason he makes so many of these metal insects is because in Montana, people see so many pieces of art featuring popular animals from the area, such as elk, buffalo and wolves.

"I'm tired of it," Holmes said. "So - bugs."

Spiders, ants, scorpions and praying mantises populate any given piece of land much more than the lexicon of mammals Montana is famous, for was his logic behind it.

Holmes said he has been trying to get a collection of spiders together for many years, but every time he gets to six sculptures, someone buys one.

He has sold sculptures to galleries in Missoula, Great Falls, Whitefish and Utah.

Holmes said cleaning and polished the metal he has found takes the most time in the process of creating one of his sculptures, but overall, he enjoys the work.

"What is it you do in Havre, in the winter?" Holmes said. His answer to the question is to spend time in his warm shop, "goof around" and make metal bugs.

Lindsay Brown

Holmes shows off one of his sculptures, a snail made from welded scrap metal.


Reader Comments

MzMontana writes:

Sure wish I knew who took his sculpture of the jump rope girl that used to be on a fence post just south of Havre on the Beaver Creek Road.


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