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Back from the brink

Veryl Goodnight (b. 1947)

Back from the Brink, 2001


bronze, ed. 5/7

Gift of Arthur Oldham in memory of his wife Lulene Oldham


Questions to consider when visiting Veryl Goodnight’s sculpture Back from the Brink:


  • Who is this woman?  What clues about how she is dressed, her body language, her facial expression, and what she is holding tell you about her?

  • Who are the animals in the sculpture?  Why do you think the artist chose to include them in the sculpture?

  • What is the relationship between the woman and the animals?

  • The artist has grouped the figures in this sculpture together in a pyramid or triangle shape. How does this grouping affect the meaning of the sculpture?  Would the meaning be different if the figures were grouped differently?


Veryl Goodnight is an American artist who is best known for working from life with her sculptures.  She enjoys working with live models, whether they be people or animals.  Through working with live models, Veryl Goodnight is able to study more about her subjects than she would through photographs.  This familiarity with her subjects comes across in her realistic and emotional depictions of people and animals.


In the late 1800s, the millions of buffalo that once lived on the prairies of West Texas were nearly gone. After so many years of being hunted for food, being captured by hide hunters, and being killed to make room for cattle, there were only a few hundred bison left in all the American plains. Two people from Texas, Colonel Charles Goodnight and his wife, Mary Ann practically brought the bison of this area back from this brink of extinction. Charles and Mary Ann sent a few of the cowboys that worked for them out to find some of the remaining bison in their area. Soon, the cowboys returned with two small calves. In another journey, they brought back two more. While these cowboys rescued these baby buffalo from the plains, it was Mary Ann that cared for these young animals, raised them and kept them safe from the dangerous plains that were once their homes. Because of this act, Southern bison did not go extinct.


For more information about Veryl Goodnight and the real life inspiration for her sculpture Back from the Brink, please visit:


To hear the story as told by Veryl Goodnight, please watch this video or save it for viewing at another time.  The video is a little over 30 minutes.

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