In your own words, discuss the idea of monumentality as expressed on or by the Iowa State University campus. You may discuss the campus as a whole, or you may focus on a particular structure/landscape/artwork/area within the campus. Consider what monumentality means, how it is perceived, and toward what ends it is used. Think broadly and be creative in your response.
Left Sided Angel
Stephen De Staebler
Parks Library, Entrance
96 x 24 x 30 inches
Angels are often found in western art, however, the one Stephen De Staebler created for the entrance of the Parks Library is not typical. Unlike many other images of celestial beings, this figure is not
unearthly or above the human condition. Battered and bruised, it has only the left wing and one leg intact.
The sculptures placement in front of the library is important. A library is the repository and collector of human knowledge, this angel represents humanity’s soul. In contrast to other beautiful and victorious angels, Left Sided Angel stands on the toes of its single foot, making the sculpture seem precariously balanced as though it may fall. Or, the viewer might sense the angel is about to takeoff in flight. Stephen De Staebler asks each viewer react to this suspense. Could this asymmetrical figure with only one wing possibly fly? If the angel could leap from its base, would it crash to the earth or would it ascend above tumultuous the world? This tentative and unusual angel forces us to think about the delicate place that humans hold in the world. Through it all, Left Sided Angel remains upright and tenacious, refusing to give up. Is this then a message of hope and reassurance? A message that might encourage humankind to do the same?
Made possible by the Iowa Art in State Buildings Programs and funded in part by Phi Kappa Phi.
About the Work of Art
University Museums – Art on Campus Program
Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa n
©2009 University Museums
Stephen De Staebler (American b. 1933) was born in St. Louis, Missouri and currently resides in San Francisco, CA. He received his bachelor of arts from Princeton University and his master of arts, with a focus in sculpture, from University of California. De Staebler draws on the theme of man’s place in the world. His first solo exhibition was at the Oakland Museum in 1974 and he began working with a bronze medium in the 1980s. Public commissions of De Staeblers’ work include the Bay Area Transit District and San Jose Convention Center, both in California. He currently resides in the San Francisco Bay area and continues to produce dynamic sculptures.
Left Sided Angel
Art on Campus accession number U86.444
Additional information on public art, other Art on Campus information sheets, and Art on Campus maps are available at the University Museums office, 290 Scheman Building, (515) 294-3342, or visit us online at www.museums.iastate.edu
This information sheet is intended to be used in addition to viewing the Art on Campus Collection.
At no time should this sheet be used as a substitute for experiencing the art in person.
In a discussion of Stephen De Staebler’s Left Sided Angel, the artist made several comments regarding the work and its interpretation; I get the best reactions to my work from people who aren’t artistic and react from the gut. From my point of artistic view, a piece is working when it provokes reaction, whether positive or negative. What’s not so great is when people don’t react at all. That means there’s no emotional punch,” said De Staebler. He continued by saying that sometimes viewer’s reactions to an artwork change, just as relationships with other human beings. He expressed his opinion that when a piece of art is disquieting, it holds people’s attention longer. It’s like a puzzle. People will keep trying to figure it out. That is the way De Staebler likes it — he feels that the truth of an artwork is in the viewer’s eyes. De Staebler states, It’s what the viewer makes of the image, not necessarily what was intended.
About the Art on Campus Collection
Iowa State University is home to one of the largest campus public art programs in the United States. Over 2000 works of public art, including selection by significant regional, national, and international artists, are located across campus in buildings, courtyards, open spaces, and offices. In 1982, the University Museums created the Art on Campus Program that codifies acquisition, education, and care and conservation of the campus public art collection.
The foundations of the contemporary Art on Campus Program began during the Depression in the 1930s when Iowa State College’s President Hughes envisioned that, “The arts would enrich and provide substantial intellectual exploration into our college curricula.” In 1978, Iowa passed the Iowa Art in State Buildings legislation, which requires .5 percent of new construction or remodeling funds to be used to acquire public art. Since 1978, Iowa State has completed Art in State Building projects, commissioned or acquired public works of art, and involved faculty, students, and staff in the commissioning and acquisition processes.
About the Artist
©2009 University Museums
Left-Sided Angel to Its Critics
And if I am an angel in decent,
perhaps fallen, in some of its senses,
What did you expect? A neon halo?
Wings with feathers from a dancer’s boa?
These are hard times for the spirit—too much
of everything, too much money, lunches
on the university’s tab, cocktail
patio parties where the whiners impale
olives and gerkins. stab colleagues between
the shoulder blades, slice up their friends,
roast their students over ruby charcoal,
resident novelist, in Mark Twain cool
whites, threatens to put John in his next book—
as a slimy minor character. Look
at yourselves. Who’s unimpared, whole? Surprised,
I watch you watch me through your log clogged eyes.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Commissioned in 1995 by University Museums with inspiration form De Staebler’s Left Sided Angel
©1995-2009 Ann Struthers/University Museums
Petition to Remove a Statue
Hunk of shrapnel!
Pile of mangled bronze!
We want him down from his one-foot poise.
Victory should be maimed
but beautiful, not banged-up
with barely a leg to stand on.
One wing clipped, the other gone,
how he deforms the whole environment,
warps the air itself with absences.
If sculpture is pure form,
or its pursuit, then this nightmare
comes as close to art
as any freeway accident,
with us out in the bushes
looking for the missing limbs.
We want to make him whole,
in his own perfect image; we want
him far less human than he is;
but since we cannot heal him,
and since he wears our wounds so openly,
by God, we’ll have this unright angel down!
Commissioned in 1990 by University Museums, in reaction to
Stephen De Staebler’s sculpture Left Sided Angel
©1990-2009 Neal Bowers/University Museums