Motorcycle Exhibit Explores Western Influences on Art and Culture

Steel Ponies ride into the Eiteljorg

INDIANAPOLIS—Motorcycles remain symbols of adventure, freedom, individualism and even danger—ideas often connected to concepts of the American West. On March 10, 2012, Steel Ponies opens at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, allowing guests to explore the finest examples of motorcycles—from vintage historical examples and famous Hollywood bikes to tricked-out custom jobs, and how they relate to both the real and imagined American West and Native America. The exhibit features the motorcycle Evel Knievel used in many of his famous jumps; the "Captain America" bike, used in the counterculture classic film, "Easy Rider;" and more than 20 other must-see motorcycles, including:

Custom Orange County Chopper
Built in 2009 and featured on an episode of the Discovery Channel's American Chopper, this was Orange County Chopper's first Native American-inspired bike. The themed motorcycle, built for the Chippewa Nation, sports dream catchers for wheels and a tank and fenders made to look like birch bark.

“Because of its Native American styling and tribute to the Chippewa people of Saginaw, Mich., this particular motorcycle seemed a perfect fit for Steel Ponies,” said White Wolf James, Eiteljorg assistant curator and curator of Steel Ponies.

Cowboy Customs chopper Art Attack
The imagery of the West has inspired artists in many ways. In 2006, it inspired master builder Russ Hess to come out of retirement after 21 years and create Art Attack. The unique Western styling of this virtual saddle on wheels is achieved with 47 pieces of engraved silver overlay and a total of 115 gold flowers and rubies.

1915 Harley on "Cannonball Run"
Beginning in the early 1900s, many adventurous souls rode across the continent visiting sites in the American West. In 1915, Effie Hotchkiss became the first woman to make such a ride from New York to California, on a Harley- Davidson, with her mother, Ava, riding in the sidecar. Ninety-five years later, author and journalist Cristine Sommer-Simmons made the cross-county journey, riding a 1915 Harley nicknamed "Effie" in honor of Hotchkiss. Steel Ponies will feature Sommer-Simmons' bike and will highlight the contributions of women to the history of motorcycling. Sommer-Simmons will be at the museum July 21 to talk about her experience and to sign her new book.

Dig deeper
Each month the Eiteljorg will highlight different aspects of biking from culture to building. Highlights of the programming include first-person gallery interpreters that allow guests to explore the little-known history of women and motorcycles. Guests will also meet and hear from custom bike builders like Danny Sanchez (Apache) from Cut Throat Customs, who built a bike for the exhibition. Additionally, families can climb aboard a Harley with a sidecar and take a picture. Check to find out updated info on programming.