University Museums
Iowa State University
Ames, IA

Christian Petersen Art Museum (Morrill Hall) Brunnier Art Museum Farm House Museum Anderson Sculpture Garden

University Museums
Iowa State University
290 Scheman Building,
1805 Center Drive,
Ames, Iowa 50011


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Arte Cubano

Studio to Contemporary Glass: 1960s to Today

Ginnever: Folded Forms

Flicker and Flame: Whale Oil and Kerosene Lamps

From Time Immemorial: Art as Commemoration

Ginnever: Transforming Perspectives


Arte Cubano
Through November 2, 2021
Brunnier Art Museum

Arte Cubano highlights a universally agreed-upon characteristic of the island’s art: an incredible diversity. Cuban art is so rich in large part because of its diverse cultural blend of African, European, and Latin/Caribbean influences. Add to these traditional roots the revolution of 1959, and Cuban art occupies a unique aesthetic place in the contemporary art world.

Oracion domestica (Domestic Prayer), 2008 by Roberto Fabelo. Polychrome bronze. Courtesy of Kathryn and Marc LeBaron Private CollectionBuilding on the impetus created by recent reconciliations between the governments of the United States and Cuba, this timely exhibition reflects more than twenty-five Cuban artists’ ruminations on the quotidian, social, and political realities of the island and the contemporary world. The island geography and political intensity of Cuba inform the work in a way that is immediately identifiable, often concealing coded, even subversive, ideas while simultaneously celebrating the richness of Cuba’s cultural identity. Peeling away the layers of Cuban art often reveals a story of struggle caused by the US embargo and its economic and political consequences, the social upheaval that a true revolution produces.

The exhibition’s artists includes Lidzie Alvisa, José Bedia, Los Carpinteros, Yoan Capote, Roberto Fabelo, Diana Fonseca, Pedro Pablo Oliva, Kcho, Sandra Ramos, Esterio Segura, and more. Spanning several generations, these contemporary Cuban artists come from an unusual place: a country embargoed by our own because of its socialist revolution. All of the artists in this collection grew up in socialist Cuba, and many graduated from the prestigious Instituto Superior de Arte, built at the beginning of the revolution, Havana’s equally excellent San Alejandro Art Academy or the Escuela Nacional de Arte. Others graduated from local art schools. Despite their disparate backgrounds, aesthetic sensibilities, subject matter, materials, and styles, there is something uniquely Cuban about the art in this collection.

The intensity and depth of meaning, with the specific physical and political context, make Cuban art immediately identifiable and powerful, and an important voice in the art world today. Most of all, the art is connected to Cuba itself. Both the island and the art are an unusual mix of the traditional and the modern, of the ordinary and the special, of simplicity and incredible complexity. The same can be said for the politics, the literature, the architecture, and the people. It confounds and entrances, it is rejecting and embracing.

Studio to Contemporary Glass: 1960s to Today
Through July 2022
Brunnier Art Museum{ Ann Brunnier Decorative Arts Gallery

Studio glass in the United States is a relatively young artistic medium. Prior to the 1960s, glass could only be made in industrial or manufactory settings. The idea of an artist having a furnace and the skills to work with molten glass in their personal studios was impossible. Harvey K. Littleton, a ceramics professor at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and son of a Corning Glass Works physicist, believed it was possible to develop glass into an artistic medium akin to the burgeoning studio pottery movement he was witnessing at the time. After a visit to Europe in 1957 where he saw glass made on a smaller scale and while trying to blow glass himself in traditional Venetian glass houses on the island of Murano, he was convinced he could make studio glass a successful option for artists in America.

In 1962, Littleton led two experimental glassblowing workshops with a small group of invited graduate students at the Toledo Museum of Art. He also included his friend Dominick Labino, an accomplished engineer and inventor who had worked at multiple glass manufactories and at the time specifically with fiberglass. Labino also experimented with building his own glass furnaces and blowing glass himself. It was Labino who helped solve initial issues at the workshop by modifying the furnace and suggesting the use of specific fiberglass marbles rather than the glass batch they were attempting to use. The workshop was a success, glass could be blown outside of an industrial setting, and the exuberance and excitement gave great momentum to the development of American studio glass.

Littleton went on to begin the glass program at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, which included three students all represented in this exhibition – Dale Chihuly, Marvin Lipofsky, and Fritz Driesbach. Littleton’s students were encouraged to work freely with glass in a way never thought possible and he pushed those students to begin programs at other American colleges and universities. Shortly thereafter, the ability to work with glass in a studio environment was being taught, disseminated, and spread to artists and students across the country. Many of those students became recognized artists and passed along their knowledge to the next generation of gaffers. These new studio glass artists, just as Littleton had, began to look to the glassmakers in Italy, Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Scandinavia. From those international artists they learned skills and techniques that had been passed down through generations, along with gaining exposure to glass artists taking traditional techniques to revolutionize contemporary glass.

Today, glass is a recognized artistic medium, one that continues to be highly experimental and innovative. Working with glass is unique; the inherent malleability of glass gives rise to great ingenuity, but it also takes understanding of the properties of the material. This allows for great collaboration in glass as artists work together to create objects and art, to learn how to work properly and safely with glass, and to develop wholly new ways of working with this unique material. In just 60 years, glass has revolutionized the world of art and it continues to create excitement each time an artist steps up to the furnace for the first time.

On exhibition is a selection of studio glass and artistic glass from the University Museums’ permanent collection, charting the early glass artists in America, to examples made in European manufactories, and works of art being created by some of the best-known glass artists today.

Ginnever: Folded Forms
Through December 17, 2021
Campbell Gallery (1017 - first floor)

The Charles Ginnever: Folded Forms exhibition examines Charles Ginnever’s (1931–2019) enduring interest in employing sculpture to challenge traditional encounters with environments and build an understanding of place. In public spaces, often surrounded by rigid architectural elements and visual information meant to be taken in and understood in the blink of an eye, Ginnever’s sculptures task viewers to divert their path to explore and take notice of the changing form. Perspectives of the surrounding environment shift as the work of art is viewed from multiple angles. Experimentation with complex perspective is best embodied in the Flat Illusion series Ginnever contributed to throughout his lifetime, beginning with Dante’s Rig in 1964 and continuing through his final Origami maquette series of 2018, which he focused on at the end of his career. Abstracted forms are placed with the purpose of creating an aesthetic experience while viewing. The sculptures come alive through active looking, and are enhanced by rejecting immediate conclusions or understanding.

The Charles Ginnever: Transforming Perspectives exhibition in the Anderson Sculpture Garden, and the Christian Petersen Art Museum exhibition Charles Ginnever: Folded Forms were created in conjunction with each other and provide examples of the artist’s methods in challenging the viewer. In the garden, large-scale public works of art are placed directly into the landscape removing the necessity for a formal pedestal, thus engaging the sculpture in conversation with its surrounding environment of landscaped flora and campus architecture. From early examples of sculpture such as Midas and Fog with flat planes of parallelograms arranged to fool the eye and convey depth, to the Slant Rhyme series of sculptures which dramatically shift in form depending on the angle of view, both illustrate Ginnever’s growth in these methods of human perception over the years.

Early process drawings created in the initial stages of developing public works of art are featured in Charles Ginnever: Folded Forms within the Christian Petersen Art Museum including Dante’s Rig, the artist’s first Flat Illusions series sculpture created with purchased materials. Color as a means of highlighting form is explored in numerous maquettes of the artist’s final Origami series, recalling Ginnever’s earliest works comprised of bold and brightly painted found-material sculptures. This exhibition coincides with the Christian Petersen Art Museum’s mission to exhibit the in-process material, models and maquettes for public works of art in the Art on Campus Collection. The combined exhibitions highlight decades of Charles Ginnever’s artistic progression and urges visitors to break up their habits of searching for immediate understanding of visual information, and instead enjoy the ambiguity and act of slow viewing.

Flicker and Flame: Whale Oil and Kerosene Lamps
Through October 29, 2021

Whale oil and Kerosene lamps provided the world what was long sought: a way to bring light into the home that would be a safer alternative to candlelight. Lamps were being used as early as the 9th century in Persia, but these lamps were open oil bowls and unsafe. A new type of lamp was needed to light a family home, be used in a factory, and anywhere additional illumination was needed.

The earliest lamps used vegetable oils, tallow, or animal fat as the fuel, but all of these sources had an odor that was not the most pleasant. In the early 1700s and 1800s, whale oil was the finest fuel source because it was mostly odorless and would have a unique coloring that could range from clear to a golden color. Whale oil lamps were usually created with pressed glass, which was a faster glass making process that utilized multi-part glass molds.

By the Civil War Era, alternative sustainable fuels needed to be explored and manufactured on a larger scale. Kerosene fuel would be the eventual replacement of whale oil. In 1846 Abraham Gesner found that distilling coal produced a transparent liquid with a brighter flame in a more traditional oil lamp. Gesner named the liquid kerosene after the Greek work keroselaion. Kerosene was, again, clean and odorless, but it involved a difficult distilling process from coal. Within the decade, discovery that kerosene could be extracted from petroleum made the production a simpler and more cost-effective one. These clean-burning lamps with more affordable fuel led to longer hours spent by lamp-light at home, in businesses, on streets, and in theaters with an increased nighttime productivity in factories, brighter lighthouse illumination, and long-lasting lanterns for ships and trains. The revolution in fuels also brought about changes in lamp design to better function with kerosene and to meet new needs, uses, and demands. New lamp designs were created to now include colored glass and the creation of spills and match holders to accompany the lamps.

Kerosene lamps were utilized throughout the 19th century as gas lighting was reserved for the wealthy, and electric lighting was just catching on in rural areas by the very late 1800s. Even after electrification, many families retained their glass Kerosene lamps for emergency uses. With the advent of electrification, many families’ traditional oil lamps were converted to this form of power to maintain the historic beauty and design of oil lamps within the home.

The exhibition Flicker and Flame: Whale Oil and Kerosene Lamps highlights over 50 glass and ceramic whale oil and kerosene lamps, spills, and match holders from the permanent collection and Iowa Quester Glass Collection. The exhibition explores the history of whale oil and kerosene lamps, innovations and designs in lamp manufacturing, and reveal the history of illumination at the Farm House Museum.

From Time Immemorial: Art as Commemoration
Through summer2021
The Christian Petersen Art Museum

The Christian Petersen Art Museum will reopen to the public on Wednesday, August 19
At the Christian Petersen Art Museum, Petersen Gallery (lower level - 003 hallway), Morrill Hall

Art in public places often creates a moment of reflection on the past. In this exhibition, explore the role of art as commemoration. Demonstrating the large range of Christian Petersen’s body of work, from intricate early career medallions to large-scale monuments, memorials were an important aspect of this artist’s contribution to the nation and to Iowa State. What Iowa State chooses to commemorate through the Art on Campus Collection helps to illustrate the values of the University. From time immemorial, works of art have been created to remember contributions of a life well lived, to honor the sacrifice of a life cut too short, and to commemorate movement towards a hopeful, prosperous future.

Ginnever: Transforming Perspectives
Through Fall 2022

An exhibition of Charles Ginnever’s Flat Illusion sculptures spanning 45 years of Ginnever’s career is installed Anderson Sculpture Garden from fall 2020 through fall 2022. This exhibition explores how Ginnever’s large scale public works of art challenge the certainty we feel in our own ability to view space and visual information accurately. Visit in person to experience the countless transforming figures these sculptures present as you visit them in-the-round.

Artist Biography:
Internationally acclaimed, Charles Ginnever was a sculptor who created large-scale public works of art meant to challenge the traditional Western idea of perspective and create depth within sculpture. By locating the large-scale works of art outside, Ginnever’s sculptures were placed in conversation with the architecture and natural elements that surrounded them. Throughout his 60-year career, Ginnever explored simple planar geometric forms, manipulating them to build complexity and movement as you view the sculptures in the round.

Support for this exhibition is graciously provided by the Byron R. Anderson Sculpture Garden Fund, Betty and Dennis Keeney, and the University Museums Membership. With special appreciation to the Ginnever Trust, the John and Molly Ott Collection, and Karen and Robert Duncan Collection. With gratitude to Tessa Peters, Anne Pagel, Trisha Bergren and Anne Kohs in the exhibition preparation.

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