University Museums

Title: Transformation
Name: Sculpture
Date: 2007
Period: Contemporary
Medium: Formed and fabricated stainless steel
Country/Culture: American
Dimensions: 180 x 180 x 24 in. (457.2 x 457.2 x 61 cm) Other: 115 3/16 x 120 x 24 in. (292.6 x 304.8 x 61 cm)
Marks: In two locations, on the lower, right rear wall section, and lower left of staircase section, stamped in steel, "Albert Paley, 2007".
Classification: Sculpture
Credit Line: In the Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. The sculpture commission was funded by the Class of 1956, Iowa State University; Iowa Art in State buildings Project for Morrill Hall; University Museums, Iowa State University; Rebecca Klemm; Martha LeBuhn Allen; the National Endowment for the Arts, and Ruth and Clayton Swenson.
Location: Iowa State University, Morrill Hall
Object Number: U2007.70
More Information
Transformation is made up of fragmented pieces of fabricated steel that create a unique and beautiful portal. Its spontaneous design creates an appealing and interesting form greeting visitors who enter Morrill Hall. Designed specifically for Morrill Hall, Transformation connects the old and the new; the past and future of Morrill Hall and Iowa State University. Designed as a monument to the past and a threshold to the future, Paley uses contemporary material and traditional design methods to provide a site-specific gateway to education. Paley uses design elements such as direction and repetition to make the eye move across the sculpture, through the portal to the entrance of Morrill Hall.

Historic Morrill Hall was scheduled for demolition, but thanks to various University staff and faculty, it was rescued and transformed into a new museum and center for visual literacy and learning. Paley’s contemporary sculpture also provides a contrast to the historic building and provides an opportunity for students, faculty and staff to enter into their own reflections, opinions and conversations about Transformation. When looking at the sculpture one is reminded of the constant transformations that Morrill Hall has undergone in its lifetime, as well as the transformations that each person undertakes when entering into Iowa State University.

Both intellectual meaning and the symbolism of a hero’s journey can be found in Transformation. Applying the hero’s journey to the sculpture shows the hero accepting the task, making the journey or crossing the threshold, completing the task and returning through the threshold transformed from an ordinary man to a hero. The intellectual makes the same journey and change through Transformation and through Iowa State. Its fragmented look forces contemplation while at the same time providing safe passage for all those who enter the building. Transformation acts as a metaphor for the constant transformations that occur at Iowa State University on a daily and yearly basis.

Albert Paley began his career as a jewelry maker. Paley currently works out of his studio in Rochester, New York and has been active as an artist for over 30 years. Having completed more than 50 site-specific installations, Paley’s work can also be found in many major museums. Some of his best known works are the Portal Gates for the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C., as well as the Animal Always gates for the St. Louis Zoo. Paley received his BFA and MFA from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. He is the first metal sculptor to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Institute of Architects and is an artist-in-residence at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Paley is comparable to our first artist-in-residence Christian Petersen. Both artists, after starting out as jewelry smiths and transforming into fine-artists, have shaped Iowa State’s campus with beautiful and innovative art. Both artists also held artist-in-residence status at educational institutions