University Museums

Title: Balance of Life
Name: Mural
Date: 1998
Medium: Stone, glass, gold, painted wood panels
Dimensions: 360 x 960 in. (914.4 x 2438.4 cm)
Classification: Sculpture
Credit Line: An Iowa Art in State Buildings Project for the Kildee Hall Addition. In the Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Location: Iowa State University, Kildee Hall, Atrium/new addition
Object Number: U98.30
More Information
Balance of Life symbolizes the monumental role animal agriculture plays in economic prosperity, both now and in the future. The wall-length mural layers images of swine, poultry, cattle, animal care, and microscopic chromosomes. Enlarged images associated with animal science stress their importance and give them an aura of magic and reverence. Smyth intended this mosaic to document the work of animal science on the walls of the Animal Science Building in the same way that primitive man drew images of hunting and rituals on cave walls. Located on the left of the mural are three people - a student, a faculty member and a breeder - weighing a calf at birth. Superimposed on this scene is a red and white crossbred hog. Located in the center of the mural is a rooster and a blue and white dinner plate, where the letters A.H and the year 1896 are written. A.H. stands for animal husbandry and the year represents the founding date for the Animal Science department of Iowa State. The plate in itself is representative of
the importance of animal science to the food production and the feeding of the world. The right side of the mural depicts a heifer's head and the proper birth position of a calf fetus in utero and located above all of these images are chromosomes in gold.

Ned Smyth (American) is a native New York City. Growing up, his father worked for the Institute of Fine Arts at the NYU Art History Graduate School and Smyth spent a lot of his time in New Jersey and Italy. Having never taken a formal art class before college, Smyth received his B.A. from Kenyon College in 1970 and has taught at various schools throughout New York since 1976. As Ned Smyth spoke about his art in a 2009 Artist Profile, “I first started making art seriously my sophomore year in college. I was immediately interested in materials and texture.”