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Local sculptor chosen for summer carving symposium in Twin Cities

When Dewy Goodwin was a teenager, he tried his hand at stone carving. "I started carving pipestone and just took to it. I was 17," he said. "From there, it started escalating."

After a stint at the Santa Fe Institute of American Indian Arts, Goodwin developed his style of sculpting to bring the forms and movement of animals and the spirits of people out of blocks of stone.

"Things that people can relate to," Goodwin said. "My concept is the less I can take off the stone to come out with the image. That's my objective, to bring out the spirit and the image. That's what I do."

Goodwin, a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, former Bemidji High School teacher and currently on the faculty at Leech Lake Tribal College, has worked on many commissions over the years. But this summer he will take on a major new challenge. He will create a life-size sculpture as part of Minnesota Rocks! -- the International Stone Carving Symposium May 22-June 30 on the lawn of Saint Paul College, at the intersection of Summit Avenue and Kellogg Boulevard. He is among 14 international artists commissioned to create works from Minnesota stone for public places in the Twin Cities.

The stone will be donated by Minnesota quarries -- dolomitic limestone from Vetter Stone Co.; Kasota limestone from Mankato-Kasota Stone Co.; granite from Cold Spring Granite Co.; Oneota dolomite from Biesanz Stone Co.; and stromatolite from Cliff's Natural Stone.

"Basically, I've found you've got hard stone, medium stone and soft stone," Goodwin said. He said he orders mixed batches of stone chunks by the half-tone load at 25 cents per pound.

In addition to the commission and donated stone, the artists will receive tools donated by the Granite City Tool Co., and a 36-by-36-foot space to work on their large pieces and display their other creations.

"They have so many tools, the half of them I don't know what they are," Goodwin said. "You got to step up when you do big pieces. You can't fool around with small grinders."

Goodwin said most of the 14 sculptors chosen for the symposium from Mexico, Germany, Japan, Zimbabwe, China, Finland, Egypt, Italy and Minnesota will create abstract art. His design, however, will follow his technique of bringing living spirits out of the rock. He has sketched a figure of a grandmother, modeled after his wife, Bambi, holding their 16-month-old granddaughter, Aianna, in a blanket embrace, with their 3-year-old grandson, Little Seth, hugging his grandmother's knees. Later, he will form a clay model.

"I have two grandchildren we're really close to," Goodwin said. "I think it will be very unique to the other carvers. I have to simplify it because I only have six weeks. It's going to be a new experience and it's going to be a pretty big work."

Christine Podas-Larson, president of Public Art St. Paul, said the artists are committed to international friendship and to showing how the language of art can transcend cultural differences. The first Stone Carving Symposium was held in 1959 in Austria. The St. Paul carving site will be open to the public from noon to 8 p.m. daily.

Goodwin said he hopes to build a studio in a barn on his property, but he has always worked outdoors, or in the doorway to his horse barn.

"I'm an avid horseman. I've been around horses all my life," he said. His children are also part of the world of horses: son, Niki, is a jockey who will be riding at Churchill Downs during Goodwin's symposium; and daughters, Neah and Chamisa, are exercise girls for various racing stables.

Horses, bison and eagles are strong themes in Goodwin's work. He also encourages people to experience his work up close and personal. There are never "No touch" signs at his exhibits.

"I don't feel that way. I put that one on the floor and the kids used to play with it, sit on it," he said of a resting bison. "A sculpture is supposed to be touched. You go up and feel the texture. The grandkids love to hug them."