University Museums

Title: Learning to Fly
Name: Mural
Date: 2011
Medium: Porcelain mosaic tile
Dimensions: 672 x 235 3/8 in. (1706.9 x 597.9 cm)
Classification: Architecture, Architectural Ornamentation and Elements
Credit Line: Commissioned by University Museums. Iowa Art in State Buildings Project for the Recreation Services Expansion. In the Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Location: Iowa State University, State Gym Addition
Object Number: U2011.267
More Information
When Eric Sealine was young, he struggled with learning to swim -- until he learned he could fake it by kicking off the wall. He compared the feeling to flying, and it inspired the title for his mural in State Gym. He is fascinated with the human figure, and swimmers appear in his work often. The first incarnation of the image in Learning to Fly was a small painting he made after visiting a friend in Nantucket, and watching people dive into a pool with dark sides, their bodies glowing. The mural that resulted represents a pure moment of sensory experience. Learning to Fly continues the mural tradition of the Art on Campus collection established by Grant Wood and Christian Petersen. The elongated shape of the wall created a spatial challenge: how to present the figure in such a long, shallow space. Sealine’s solution was to stretch the figure, almost creating an abstraction. Optical illusions and perspectival tricks are a recurring theme in Sealine’s work. He said he uses these tactics to keep a feeling of fun, and inspire conversations about the art.
This was Sealine’s first mural project, and first time working in tile. One of the challenges of the piece was finding a color of tile to replicate flesh tones.

Eric Sealine (American, b. 1948) is a 1970 graduate of Iowa State University, when design majors were still under the college of Human Sciences. Today, he works
in multiple 2- and 3-dimensional media. Recurring themes in his work include the human figure, especially swimmers; and optical tricks, including the use of tromp l'oliel and hidden mirrors. In Ames, his work can also be seen at Iowa State's Thelien Student Health Center and Ames City Hall.