Biography: John Gooden, Sculptor

John is a career artist with a sculpting studio in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. He is a sculptural storyteller.

His education was completed in Santa Fe, NM at Saint John’s College and in Oklahoma City at Oklahoma City University, where he graduated with honors in 1986. He has been a guest lecturer at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum and a presenter for the Oklahoma Sculpture Society and other organizations. He has created sculpture as a live performance for the Opening Night celebration on New Year’s Eve in downtown Oklahoma City. John has won competitive commissions for such work as the Temple Houston monument for the Plains Indians and Pioneers Museum. He is a community promoter and leader, having led the creation of two successful non-profits in his hometown and raised millions of dollars for public projects there.

His roots run deep in historical Oklahoma, where one great-grandfather came to open a hardware store and a John Deere dealership, and where another great-grandfather farmed along the Cimarron River. He and his family enjoy the farm where his mother and grandfather grew up, and which has been in the family for over a century.

In recent years, John has been the Artist in Residence for the City of Kingfisher, where he led a program to renew the historic downtown with new pavement, new sidewalks, new landscaping, new lighting, and a series of sculptures, anticipated as “Kingfisher Legacies.” Each corner of the downtown carries two seals of glazed tiles which he and his family created, designating it for Kingfisher Legacies.

The biography of John, as a sculptor, is now tied to the biographies of those notable people whom he has sculpted. Even iconic sculptures, made to tell stories and not created as portraits, use the faces and images of real people, linking their stories and his.

Rev. Sykes

As the first element of Kingfisher Legacies, John created the sculpture of Apostle Paul Sykes, a black man born to slavery, who walked to Kingfisher, Oklahoma from Mississippi following the Land Run and who became famous for preaching, singing, and dancing at the local depot.

Located with Paul Sykes are a Doughboy and little girl, in bronze, each about to pitch Rev. Sykes a penny, with the little girl wearing the soldier’s hat. The face of the Doughboy is that of Lt. Keith Lowry, the first man from Kingfisher to die in World War I. The local American Legion post is named after the Lieutenant. The girl carries the image of Allyson Scammahorn.

In Blanchard, Oklahoma, there is a sculpture of Tony Burris, a renowned Choctaw, urging his military company forward in one of the battles for “Heartbreak Ridge” in the Korean War. He received a Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously. That sculpture was a joint project with Pioneer Telephone Cooperative and the Choctaw Nation.

The Choctaw Nation has been a great patron of Gooden Studios. Five notable sculptures are displayed at the Choctaw grounds in Tuskahoma, Oklahoma. The first is the “Red Warrior

"Red Warrior"
which bears of the face of Joseph Oklahombi, a Choctaw Code Talker from World War II. The sculpture was made with in consultation with Sue Folsom and Ian Thompson of the Choctaw Nation, and is archeologically correct, from the weapons portrayed to the moccasins, hair and jewelry…even the tattoos. This sculpture is an icon for the Choctaws and is on every page of their official website.

Also on display are busts of some honored Choctaws: Pushmataha, Allen Wright, and Charley Jones.

"The Choctaw Woman"

In 2014, members of the Tribal Council, Okla. Governor Mary Fallin, and family members of Charlotte Jackson gathered to unveil a sculpture of “The Choctaw Woman,” symbolic of the significant role of women in the Tribe and the passing of tribal heritage to young women. Though iconic in concept and form, the sculpture’s face is that of Charlotte Jackson, an honored Choctaw woman, who served on the Council for many years.

Near Seneca, Missouri, there is the sculpture entitled “Trees from Rocks, a Tribal Legacy” where the story is one of symbol and icon. The Eastern Shawnee are a tribe that has grown where it took root, even if those roots have had to break rocks to survive. The sculpture is to symbolize just that legacy

In Okarche, Oklahoma, John created a sculpture of Father Stanley Rother, a martyr for his faith, who died in service in Guatemala in 1981 and who is being considered for beautification as a saint.

In downtown Oklahoma City, he portrayed Bobby Murcer, a baseball legend, outside the Chickasaw Ballpark. In Norman, he sculpted Coach Bud Wilkinson, one of the greatest coaches ever to serve at OU.

"Games Along The Way"
Photo by Katherine O'Day
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, John portrayed a couple of stories for the Indian Health Care Resource Center. In the traffic triangle at 6th and Peoria (in front of the IHCRC), you will find “Games Along the Way", an Indian woman and her kids, playing as they walk. At the front door, is the “The Healer,” another iconic sculpture of a tribal elder and a boy, each holding a White Willow sapling.

John has sculpted Red Barber, and many other personalities over the years, and his works are scattered across the United States and beyond. The Governor uses his miniature of Will Rogers as a presentation to the Oklahoman of the year and for visiting dignitaries from around the world.

John has served on the board of Youth and Family Services in El Reno, Oklahoma for years. The sculpture there, entitled “The Mission” portrays the warm embrace that this agency offers to at-risk youth.

After completing his education in Santa Fe and Oklahoma City, John and his wife settled in Edmond, Oklahoma, where they began a family. He returned to Kingfisher in 1996, where he and his wife, Jody, were once high school sweethearts. He was awarded the Kingfisher’s Citizen of the Year in 2008.

The downtown sculpture of Jesse Chisholm and Kingfisher’s Gateway sign are also his creations.