University Museums

Title: Shotgun Method
Name: Sculpture
Date: 1991
Medium: Terra-cotta
Dimensions: Other (Each Medallion): 28 x 28 x 5/8 in. (71.1 x 71.1 x 1.6 cm)
Classification: Sculpture
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: U91.74a-x
More Information
Shotgun Method visualizes the process of genetic modification. The top row of disks features mythological animals. In the middle row, these creatures are deconstructed into their various parts – wings, legs, claws, and bellies – which seem to furiously spiral around the disk. In the bottom row, the parts are reassembled into a new hybrid mythical creature, and it is given a number – its new genetic code.

The use of mythological creatures, here and in Hybrids, is significant in that it shows humans have been interested in, and fearful of, mixing different species for 30 centuries - long before science made genetic engineering a real possibility.

The title Shotgun Method is a term from science which refers to random selection. When creating the second and third row of disks, Leicester literally drew the numbered animal parts at random to form his new creatures and genetic codes. The title can also refer to the way in which gene fragments from one organism are “shot” into the cell walls of another to make a new type of organism. The imprecision of the shotgun as a weapon also brings to mind the idea of doing things too hastily, or without care.

Shotgun Method is an example of how art and architecture can be almost completely integrated. It is more subtle than the other parts of the G-Nome Project, which surround the Molecular Biology Building. This is partially due to the disks’ tan color, which almost matches the walls on which they are mounted, and partially due to their location. The lowest row of disks is above the second story of the building, well above the viewers head – literally, if not figuratively. Then, the rows are each a story apart, so the medallions stretch to the top of the building and span the entire length of the atrium on both sides.
The disks surround the viewer and are so spread that it is impossible to see more than a few at a time.

A researcher hurrying off to the laboratory may not even notice their presence. Many non-scientists may regard genetic engineering in this absentminded sort of way. The results of this science are all around us, but we may not think about the issues – or all sides of the issues – all that often, and it takes a conscious effort to put all of the pieces together.