Rural Huntington sculptor now has pair of works in HNHS courtyard

Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Two of a rural Huntington artist’s sculptures are now gracing an inner courtyard at Huntington North High School, a permanent loan that may serve as an inspiration to student artists coming up through the ranks and honing their craft.

“Corn Smut” and “Modern Corn,” the works of Dana Goodman, take up a good deal of the courtyard near the art classrooms. Goodman, who has been an artist for more than 30 years, is also the head of the sculpture division of the Department of Art and Design at Purdue University Fort Wayne. He says the pieces reflect the area’s agriculture heritage, an homage, of sorts, to modern homesteaders.

“I grew up on a big, industrial farm,” he explains, “so it’s about food production, how we come to where we are today, and how we think about food, livestock and different things like that. … I’m always interested in how we see food and how we raise it. I’m a pretty avid gardener myself, and we have livestock, too, so I kind of surround myself with it.”

The courtyard exhibition has not been a quick installation. It’s taken time to get the sculptures ready and put into place, and Goodman is still working on finishing up the last details.

“This has been in the works since last fall. Sometimes it takes a while to get something like this set up and completed,” says Teri Fuller-O’Brien, who retired at the end of this past school year as an art teacher at the high school. “This is right by the art room; we use it for drawing and painting. And we thought it needed to look like it belonged to the art room.”

Fuller-O’Brien, who is, coincidentally, also married to Goodman, didn’t have to look far to find an artist willing to set up a mini exhibition at the high school.

“This is the first time I’ve put one of my things outside,” Goodman adds.

“There’s limited access and not much wind.”

The HNHS Special Education Department also obtained a grant to purchase flowers for its students to plant in the courtyard, with the sculptures complementing the flora. But there’s no denying that the two sculptures are the show-stoppers in the garden – their sheer size alone commands attention.

“Corn Smut” is the name of a clay tower that Goodman says depicts a disease that is also consumed as food in some parts of the world. He says the work is a humorous connotation on what people normally associate with “smut.” The mostly light blue and beige statue is covered with various critters, corncobs and a depiction of the disease, climbing up a beanstalk-like tower topped with a huge ear of corn.

“It has to do with corn, of course, and all the kinds of diseases and creatures,” he explains. “You’re always kind of fighting nature, wanting to kind of take over something, and trying to find that balance between it destroying what you want to do and not destroying yourself trying to destroy them.”

The second sculpture, a mixed media behemoth comprised of multiple working and recycled parts, is called “Modern Corn.” Made of wood, clay, steel, Styrofoam and cement, the piece is powered by a motor that turns various sections – most of which depict huge kernels of corn – at different speeds.

“It kind of reminds you of the structure of old corn cribs,” Goodman says. “It just kind of creeps around and makes a creaking sound, and I have a pig looking at it all from the front.”

Huntington North’s new principal, Rief Gilg, says he’s excited to have the artworks coming to the school, especially in a place where students and others can view it from the windows without having to actually enter the courtyard.

“I think anytime you can bring art to people, it’s one thing to work with it in a class but it’s nice to see it in its exhibited form, so I think it’s a positive for as long as it’s feasible for it to be here,” Gilg says. “I think we appreciate the talent of the individual that is here on display.”

Outgoing HNHS Principal Russ Degitz says his vision in bringing in the project last year was to make the courtyard space better utilized.

“In my mind I thought, with it being close to the art rooms and special services, that we could utilize it to bring some outdoor space for the classrooms to extend into,” he says. “I could see, at some point obviously, this exhibit transitioning out and being replaced by student artwork and exhibits.”

More information about Dana Goodman can be found online at danagoodman.weebly.com.