Posted by: groundsforsculpture | February 16, 2010

True Tales of Grounds For Sculpture

There are many stories told at Grounds For Sculpture: how a sculpture got here; what an artist was really saying; a strange thing that happened to a sculpture. Part of the pleasure of being a docent is having the opportunity to talk with the artists themselves, and being able to get to the root of the garden legends. How many of these “garden legends” are true, I’ve always wondered. So I started with the man for whom so many “tall tales” (or “tails”) exist, Dana Stewart.

“Tall Tails” with Dana Stewart

Sue’s Nightmare is one of Dana Stewart’s mythological beasts that live at  Grounds For Sculpture. Children are always the first to point out how much like a dinosaur Sue looks with large teeth  displayed through an obvious snarl. Why is this small sculpture Sue’s nightmare? And who is Sue?

In August of 1990 an amateur fossil hunter named Sue discovered the largest and most complete set of Tyrannosaurus Rex bones in South Dakota. The Field Museum in Chicago bought the fossils and had “Sue,” named after the woman who discovered her, shipped to GFS. With heavy security and much secrecy, Sue was assembled in the Motor Exhibit Building between May 1999 and March 2000. The Johnson Atelier had been commissioned to make the steel armature that would display Sue’s fossilized bones back in Chicago.

“And then I walked into the Motor Exhibit Building and there was a dinosaur!” Dana recalled. “I remember they let me hold one of the teeth. It must have been six inches long.”

Dana had dropped in to see one of his old friends and came face to face with a 42 foot T-Rex. “I wondered what kind of animal could have taken down a dinosaur of that size and with teeth that big. An ankle biter! With large teeth! Kind of like the elephant and the mouse.”

And from that, Sue’s Nightmare was born: a vicious little creature standing only five inches tall that could take down the massive Tyrannosaurus Rex.

by Meredith Neubeck, Admissions Staff

Head Shot of “Sue”.

Photo Courtesy W. Bruce Daniels



  1. I saw Sue at the Fields Museum a couple of years ago. I knew that sculptor Petro Hull was involved with re-constructing it, but I did not know the work was done at GFS and the Dana Stewart’s part. Now I have a story to tell my grandsons. Thanks for the great story, Meredith!

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