University Museums

Title: Novel Agents
Name: Mosaic Floor
Date: 1991
Medium: Ceramic tile mosaic floor
Dimensions: 132 x 264 in. (335.3 x 670.6 cm)
Classification: Architecture, Architectural Ornamentation and Elements
Credit Line: An Iowa Art in State Buildings Project for the Molecular Biology Building. In the Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Location: Iowa State University, Molecular Biology, Atrium
Object Number: U91.78
More Information
The third mosaic floor in the G-Nome Project is located in the auditorium lobby. This work, titled Novel Agents, derives its imagery from the phylogenetic tree and the fruit tree of the Garden of Eden. The phylogenetic tree maps out the evolutionary development of all animals and plants. The two symbols at the base of the tree represent a scorpion and a tarantula. Combined with the snake wrapped around the tree trunk, these poisonous creatures represent the possible dangers of tasting the fruit from this genetic tree. Above the tree flies a "super-genetic" creature, the dragon.

The G-Nome Project fully integrates art and architecture into the Molecular Biology Building. Since the artist, Andrew Leicester, was selected at the start of the project, he was able to work with the architectural firm Hansen Lind Meyer, Inc. to incorporate the art into the building's design. As a result, Iowa State University has gained a striking example of the successful merging of art and architecture, as well as a building rich in meaning and function.

When Leicester was commissioned by Iowa State to create this public art, he began to research the kinds of activities that would take place there. He found information at conferences, by attending lectures, by reading books, and through conversation with scientists and students. He kept a sketchbook of ideas and drawings on the subject. It became clear to him that the most debated area of current investigation in the field of molecular biology was transgenetic animal research with both the academic community and the public expressing their opinions. Philosophers, sociologists, animal scientists, and economists were among the many who were discussing the potential legal and economic implications of genetic research.