Lynette Pohlman, University Museums, (515) 294-3342
Steve Sullivan, News Service, (515) 294-3720
IOWA STATE HONORS NATION'S FIRST UNIVERSITY ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE
AMES, Iowa -- Sculptor Christian Petersen came to Iowa State University in 1934 with the intention of staying a few months to complete a commissioned campus sculpture project. He stayed for 21 years, becoming the country's first university artist-in-residence.
Iowa State University celebrates Petersen's legacy with a retrospective exhibition, "Christian Petersen, Sculptor," which will be held at Iowa State's Brunnier Art Museum, Aug. 22 through Dec. 31. The exhibition provides a rare glimpse of Petersen's public and studio works of art, some not seen publicly in more than 40 years, said Lynette Pohlman, director of university museums.
The Iowa State exhibition reviews Petersen's life work from 1900 though 1961 and examines themes of agriculture, education, war, memorials and family.
In an essay on Petersen, Charles C. Eldredge, a University of Kansas professor and former director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American Art, wrote: "In his monuments for the Iowa State University campus, as well as in his independent studio works, Christian Petersen left a legacy that documents his own personal vision. But, more than that, this body of work also illustrates the competing forces that flourished in American sculpture during an important transitional period, and deserves an audience and a (re)consideration beyond its Iowa home."
Petersen was invited to the Iowa Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) in January 1934 by project director and artist Grant Wood. Wood assigned Petersen to Iowa State. HIS first project was the "History of Dairying Mural," at the Daily Industry Building. It was the first sculpture project in the PWAP nationally, and is the largest remaining Midwestern sculpture project from that federal arts program.
Petersen sculpted 12 major campus public works of art, including "The Gentle Doctor," which has become an international symbol for veterinary medicine. He also created hundreds of smaller studio sculptures and drawings that captured portraits of families, friends, collegiate peers and national figures, as well as sculptures of campus and family life and world events.
The exhibition culminates years of preparation, from tracking down Petersen sculptures scattered around the state and nation to extensive conservation work on the fragile terra cotta, plaster and Bedford limestone works of art.
"Literally hundreds of individuals, including former students and friends who have donated their sculptural treasures back to Iowa State, donors who funded conservation efforts, collectors who shared their Petersen art and family and friends who gave us Petersen's history, have made this exhibition a reality," said Pohlman.
The exhibition is organized by Iowa State's University Museums, and guest curated by Lea Rosson DeLong. The exhibition is funded by University Museums; the ISU College of Veterinary Medicine; ISU Foundation; Bob and Bobbie Boeke; National Endowment for the Arts; Hervey and Sally Stockman; Target Corporation; Mary Alice and Bill Reinhardt, Jr.; and Doris and John Salsbury.
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