Community members take an in-depth look at ‘Floating World’ on an art walk (copy) | Academics






Floating World by Ralph Helmick, 2014, photographed from its east side.



Iowa State faculty, students, and members of the public gathered in Sukup’s atrium to observe “Floating World.” The gathering was part of the University Museum’s Art Walks, which provide the public with an in-depth look at public art on campus.

The Art Walk started at 12:00 p.m. in the Atrium Sukup, the group of art admirers was mainly made up of teachers and members of the public over the age of 40, but also one student.

Leading the art march was Lynette Pohlman, Director and Chief Curator of University Museums. She started the art walk by explaining the importance of visual literacy and the history surrounding the state of Iowa and their commitment to the arts and humanities.

“In 1927, a man came to campus to be our next president, or a future president named Raymond Hughes. He was a chemist, but he believed in the arts when he came here in 1927, the first thing he did was form the campus arts committee,” Pohlman said. “God, I love presidents like that.”

Since the establishment of the Campus Art Committee, Iowa State has amassed an extensive collection of more than 2,700 works of public art. From portraits to landscapes to the assembly of four tons of laser-cut steel suspended in the Sukup Atrium, the State of Iowa’s commitment to providing public art reinforces the beautiful aesthetic of the campus.

Pohlman explained how the concept of “Floating World” was carefully planned by a committee. 18 people were included on the committee, including professors such as Wendy Wintersteen and David Giles, as well as selected students. The final product of the committee was an eight-page document detailing the desired outcome of the project.

“Basically, in a nutshell, it’s about talking about the history of agriculture and the influence of technology and cultural changes over the past 150 years since we’ve had a central campus,” said Pohlman said.

Once the committee had decided on everything they wanted the artwork to say, they embarked on the task of finding an accomplished artist with a history of creating pieces for the public.

Pohlman then explained the intricate symbolism and meaning of the artwork, analyzing it both as a whole and in the individual panels, pointing out details like a portrait of Brownlee Davidson subtly etched into one of the panels. lavender grey, or the original John Deere Sod Busting Plow depicted on one of the lower levels of the artwork.






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“Floating World” by Ralph Helmick photographed from its west face



Throughout the art walk, Pohlman made sure to ask questions and keep her audience thinking and engaged. At one point, a member of Pohlman’s audience, Kevin Marken of Des Moines, remarked that he would have enjoyed the work more if it had been the product of an individual artist’s expression rather than something fabricated. by a committee.

What followed was a polite discourse on the merits of public art and the intrinsic value of expression on individual and larger scales. After the art walk, Marken continued the conversation, saying “Well, artistically, kind of like musicians. I just think of the music being music instead of, you know, being the committee that made it.

Bryon Dudley of Ames, who was standing nearby, said “it’s useful art, so it has to serve that purpose and a lot of art, you know, if you just have the crazy kind of artist to genius who just does what he wants to do, they don’t think of a goal sometimes.

Ultimately, Helmick’s work reflects the history of an institution he had little to do with, so the committee behind the “floating world” was needed to adequately reflect the Iowa State History. Yet the merits of an individual perspective are not ignored, rather they are the smaller pieces of a larger idea.

Christopher S. Washington