ROSSVILLE ? Dana Thomas is thinking huge these days.
The owner of D2 of Rossville does specialty painting for businesses and private residences, applying faux finishes, painting murals and creating special effects. Whether it's a margarita door or a simulated tin ceiling, Thomas makes her clients environs something to talk about.
"I guess I can't stop my imagination at the walls," Thomas said of her latest idea. "This is the biggest, most bizarre thing I've done."
Her newest concoction will definitely catch the eye and, hopefully, the imagination of motorists traveling along U.S. 136 between Illinois 1 and the village of Henning in northern Vermilion County.
"I saw that first article about the Farm Progress Show and got to thinking about what a big part of the economy farming is here and I got this idea to do something to recognize how important the farmers are," Thomas said.
For want of a better name, Thomas is calling her sculpture "field art." When installed on the north side of U.S. 136, 1.6 miles from Illinois 1, near cornfields owned by Charles and Vickie Rademacher, the giant cornstalk sculpture will stand 16 feet tall.
"I've gotten a lot of help with this once I got going," Thomas said.
Thomas got an old utility pole from CIPS. FMC Technologies laser-cut the sheet metal for the leaves, Neal Tire & Auto Service donated the tire treads for the ears of corn, Tyler's Fab & Weld, and Brown's Cash & Carry and Hoopeston Awards & Signs helped with the sign, which will read "A Tribute to the American Farmer." Jackson Construction will help with putting the pieces together at the site.
Thomas has had a friend drill a hole in her back yard and has placed the utility pole in it in order to sand it and apply coats of primer, base color and faux finish, making it resemble a cornstalk.
Brian Bretz created Thomas' prototype from her sketches, cut the leaves from sheet metal and has volunteered to help Thomas with both the trial run and the final construction of the sculpture.
After the leaves were cut to a variety of sizes, Thomas sanded each one, coated it with a urethane finish to keep it from rusting, then used a combination of two ingredients mixed with paint thinner to apply the John Deere green base color.
"I have to work fast because it will dry in less than 15 minutes," Thomas said of the process.
A color wash is then added and a final sealer clear coat, completing the leaf.
The leaves will be attached to the utility pole "stalk" with a series of bolts.
"After starting my business just a year ago, if somebody told me I'd be building a cornstalk, I wouldn't have known what to think," Thomas said with a laugh. "I've learned a lot about corn since I started this project. Did you know that normally there's only one ear of corn per stalk?"
Thomas is very proud of the fact that the materials used to build the sculpture are all items used on a farm: sheet metal, tires, John Deere green paint and rebar, which will form the corn tassel.
"People are still asking me how I'm going to do this or that and I have to say that I just don't know yet," Thomas said. "We have decided to put everything together here, then take it apart, numbering the pieces. That should make things a lot easier at the site."
As a breeze gently caused the leaves on the 7-foot prototype to rustle, Thomas commented she hoped the same would happen with the larger version. "Wouldn't that be something. You know how the corn moves with the wind. That would be great."
Thomas said with all the help she has gotten, she has only about $150 in the project so far.
"I'm still wondering if I'm going to be able to pull it off," Thomas fretted. "I had a dream the utility pole broke. I think if I get this up and together, I'll go on a vacation."
Thomas said she would like to see her creation moved after the Farm Progress Show, possibly to somewhere in Hoopeston.
You can reach Pat Phillips at (217) 443-8941 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.