Credit Line: Gift of Anston Marston. In the permanent collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Lowell Houser has the distinction of being the only person other than Grant Wood to design part of the library mural. Wood thought the other artists on the Project had talent for painting, but Houser had the ability to actually devise compositions, and Wood asked for his help in working out the plans for the Engineering mural. Houser was living in Ames at the time and held a part time job in the Agricultural Engineering Department at Iowa State College, so his proximity to "the source," as Wood termed it, led to Houser's brief period on the Project. Normally, no one who had a job of any kind would have been eligible for Project employment, but Wood made an exception because of his need for Houser's design abilities. The details of the Engineering mural, such as the chemistry lab, may have been supplied by Houser.
Houser graduated from Ames High School in 1921 and the Art Institute of Chicago in 1924. He then spent much of the rest of the decade of the 1920s in Mexico where one of his jobs was making drawings of archaeological ruins at Chichen-Itza and other pre-contact sites. This exposure, plus the influence of Mexican muralists such as Diego Rivera, formed Houser's style, as shown in his 1931 watercolor, Village Fountain, Haiti. This style can be seen again in the mural Houser painted for the Ames Post Office in 1936, The Evolution of Corn, which is a composition dealing with the role of corn in the life of Mayans on one side and Iowa farmers on the other.