University Museums

Title: Unlimited Possibilities
Name: Mural
Date: 1997
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 264 x 252 in. (670.6 x 640.1 cm)
Marks: Artists names in lower panels on right side.
Classification: Paintings
Credit Line: Commissioned by the University Museums. Funded by The University Museums, Office of External Affairs, the Fisher Representatives System Artist-in-Residence Fund at the ISU Foundation, the Estate of Alice Davis, Marjorie Morrison, and Cornelia and William Buck. In the Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Location: Iowa State University, Parks Library, Atrium, 2nd floor
Object Number: U96.184abc
More Information
"Unlimited Possibilities" celebrates Iowa State's future as a premier land-grant university. Based on the Library murals," When Tillage Begins, Other Arts Follow" designed by Grant Wood, both in process and intent, this mural was commissioned by University Museums and ISU External Affairs. It was Iowa State's contribution to Iowa's Sesquicentennial celebration, and it celebrates Iowa State's past and future vision as the best land-grant institution into the 21st century.

Unlimited Possibilities refers to the life of the student as well as the life of the University. In contrast and complementary to the Grant Wood designed murals in the Parks Library, which depict mature adults in society, I've focused on student learning activity. The mural is divided into two sections - on the left is an agricultural setting, and on the right is a classroom setting. This can be viewed as town and country, city and rural, nature and civilization, etc.

Center Section
The center section is of a circular design, reflecting both the blue curtains and the rotunda ceiling. The main element of this section is the commemorative cup which celebrates the University as a whole. The scene reflected in the cup is a pathway which symbolizes the individual student's path through life. This path is overlaid on the earth indicating the global concerns and the influence of the University.

The scenes in the mural are framed by large blue curtains. Blue is the color of the first place ribbon at fairs and suggests only the best. It is also suggestive of blueprints, the guide for building many things. It also suggests the magician's robe. This is to imply that regardless of how much knowledge we possess, much of the universe is still shrouded in mystery. The curtains are covered in celestial images as well as images of more earthy nature: bits of schematics from electrical diagrams, images of individual Colleges at the University, e.g. Engineering, Family and Consumer Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, Agriculture, Education, Business, Design, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the Library.

Left Side
Starting at the lower left hand corner, a female student is holding in her hands a piece of earth that resembles the State of Iowa. This suggests the future of Iowa is literally in the hands of the youth. Moving up and to the right, another female student has set aside her binoculars used for seeing distant objects, and with a sketchbook in hand, is gazing off in the distance and imagining a future bit of molecular biology as seen through the doorway in time. The third student is viewing through a camera (working with light) a robin, the traditional harbinger of spring, the season of rebirth and growth. On the horizon is a typical barn but this barn has a face, suggestive of the family farm and a hope for its secure place in the future.

Right Side
This is a classroom/laboratory scene with old and new forms of information gathering. In the lower left corner is an old-fashioned television, the kind using vacuum tube amplification. This is to remind the viewer of the original electronic digital computer first developed at Iowa State, which used vacuum tube technology. To the right is a male student using a computer in an imaginative way to literally learn about himself. To his left is a student reading through a textbook. 'Never overlook anything' would describe her thinking. Behind him to the left on the table are an old-time carpenter's ruler in the shape of a square root symbol, a pen and a piece of paper. These suggest some tools never really lose their usefulness. To the right is a male student using a file cabinet to retrieve information. The female student at the top is drawing on a large scale computer screen filled with an electrical wiring schematic. She is working on "the wheels of change": The wheel of the past is a wagon wheel; the wheel of the present is shaped somewhat like a movie reel (movies being the major contemporary art form), and the wheel of the future is not quite seen in its entirety to the right. The apparition smoking up from the row of test tubes is meant to suggest the magical nature of much new technology. The city scene coming out of the mist implies that technology has the ability to be the crowning glory of civilization.