University Museums

Title: Wonders: Notions From the Heart
Name: Mural
Date: 1988
Medium: Glazed, painted ceramic tiles
Dimensions: Each Panel (7): 24 1/2 x 68 1/2 in. (62.2 x 174 cm)
Classification: Sculpture
Credit Line: An Iowa Art in State Buildings Project for the Union Drive Association. In the Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Object Number: U88.72
More Information

The project site, the "Depot," is a highly trafficked, central location for students on the west side of campus. Clearly, the dominant visual characteristics of the area are the repeated, polished aluminum grids of the mailboxes, which are really quite striking. Other important physical characteristics include the area's relatively compact and economical arrangement of space, the long, blank wall at the north end of the Depot lobby and the general decorating scheme of neutral browns, tans, and beiges. The primary "psychological" characteristic of the area is consistently described as on of anticipation, as students anxiously wait for letter important to them. In addition, student's emotions alternate, depending on circumstances, between hope, relief or elation, on the one hand, and dejection or anger on the other. In sum, the Depot strikes me as a well-designed functional space which, while certainly adequate for student needs, has the potential to be both visually and emotionally more attractive.

It appears that a successful project must, first of all, mitigate against the relatively impersonal nature of this highly functional institutional environment. It should provide a welcome relief from the pressing concerns and anxieties of the moment. It is equally important, however, that the artwork integrate with this environment and not simply stand in opposition to it. It should become part of the "fabric" of the space. A final, yet significant, concern is that the artwork be able to physically withstand the variety of incidental and natural "abuses" inherent in such a high-traffic area.

I am proposing a series of four separate, yet visually consistent, friezes, to be installed above the mailboxes as indicated in the accompanying model. The running width of each frieze is determined by the width of the mailbox units below it. Each frieze will be composed of ceramics tile epoxied and grouted on a sealed plywood surface.

The imagery, texture and color palette are an extension of significant elements of my artwork that have developed over the last few years. I have been particularly concerned of late with attempting to develop artwork that both reminds us of and internally resolves the age-old dichotomy between our inherent innocence and our acquired worldliness. The images, abstract in nature, are derived from the consistent similarities between children's drawings, animals and the objects of tribal cultures. The colors and textures are bright and tactile. The space is purposefully ambiguous. It is an "open" space in which one can enter, drift and perhaps, momentarily "lose" oneself.

John Beckelman, October, 1987