Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
August 8, 1997

Courtyard becomes a sculpture garden

by Linda Charles

"Bored artists are scary."

So wrote a passerby on the chalkboard in a sculpture garden at the northwest corner of Gilman Hall.

The "bored artists" in this case are David Martin, professor of materials science and engineering, and Dave Johnson, a lab associate in veterinary physiology and pharmacology.

The idea for the sculpture garden grew as Martin looked at the unused space in the below-street-level courtyard. A staircase leads down to the grassy area, shaded by both the buildings and trees. A metal apple now hangs from one of the branches of the tree and a sculpted snake lurks nearby in this campus Eden.

"It's a nice space," said Martin, who, with appropriate coordination, has installed pieces of his own and Johnson's work in the area. "The exhibit features art that is loosely, very loosely, related to material sciences."

Everything in the garden has been donated or loaned, Martin said, including the art pieces, which will be changed periodically.

The garden has grown since its conception. Originally, there were Johnson's sculptures and one picnic table for brown baggers and smokers. One day Martin realized the garden was a good location to meet with a group of students, and more tables were added. A lectern and a chalkboard also have found their way into the garden.

"I've tried to keep the setting natural, using materials like cedar and slate," Martin said.

Johnson's free-standing sculptures, one looking like some strange bird guarding the area, are made from recycled farm implements. Martin's work hangs from the building walls and also is made from recycled materials, in this case, the remains of laser cuttings.

The works will evolve as they are affected by the elements, he noted. Some parts of the sculptures are copper and will develop a patina over time. Other elements will rust with age, while some are stainless steel and will remain unchanged.

"Part of the idea of the scuplture garden is to show that beauty is in a lot of places that surround us," Martin said, "to show that things that are treated as waste are not necessarily ugly."

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