University Museums

Title: Air Spiral
Name: Sculpture
Date: 2002
Medium: Stainless steel
Dimensions: 204 x 54 in. (518.2 x 137.2 cm)
Classification: Sculpture
Credit Line: Purchased by the Iowa Art in State Buildings Program for the Student Services Building, with additional funding from: Patricia Andersen, Forrest and Miles Bousquet, Nancy Corbin, Peter D. and Rebecca Englin, Thomas L. Hill, Terry Mason, Phyllis Miller, Robert and Miriam Patterson, Mary Beth Snyder, Roy and Bobbie Warman, and Suzanne Zilber. In the Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. In the Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University.
Location: Iowa State University, Student Services
Object Number: U2002.50
More Information
“Becoming the best” was Iowa State’s slogan at the turn of the 21st century. This philosophy was ingrained into every department on campus and is still the goal of many campus departments and services today. The departments housed within the Student Services Building aim to make this slogan a reality for all of the students that walk through its doors.

Tucked away among the trees near the Student Services Building is a visual reminder of this mission. Air Spiral, with its sturdy base and twisting forms, suggests a fervent upward spiral to success. The sculpture is ambiguous as it sits upon its lofty perch, curving back upon itself. The spiral form represents a “dichotomy of positive and negative existing within the same symbol,” wrote Susan Fiene in her artist proposal.

Air Spiral can also be read as funneling downward, according to Lynette Pohlman, director and chief curator of University Museums. Coming to college is a huge transition for any type of student, but especially for the traditional 18 year old, who is faced with life on their own, a new social structure, tackling the big questions in life, and coursework on top of everything.

Some fall. For these students, the student services staff strive to be a resource, a source of community, resiliency, growth, and change.The sculpture is meant for everyone. The spiral form is a cross-cultural motif, and it also bears an undeniable resemblance to the symbol of the Cyclone mascot. Students in transition often want an answer, the answer, which many of life’s questions simply do not have. Here, the quote emblazoned across the spiral, from the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, can be enlightening: “Nothing ever is, everything is becoming.” “It sets up an impossibility and then counters it with a positive assertion. This quote will offer direction and reassurance about the process of personal and intellectual growth,” said Fiene. Though life is uncertain, we are reminded that the world keeps spinning.