"Iowa Cycles"

Cork Marcheschi, Teacher of Art at the University of California-Berkeley and the San Francisco Art Institute
Year Installed: 
Art in State Buildings Program
Location Detail: 
Union Plaza between Rod Library, Wright Hall, Sabin Hall, and Maucker Union

Description: This twenty-one foot modern sculpture contains geometric shapes in neon colors that are illuminated at night. Marcheschi chose this design because he liked "bright solid colors off reflective surfaces" and thought the sculpture would bring cheer to the area (Waterloo Courier, 9/2/94). Primarily made out of aluminum, the work sits on a forty-inch base in a reflecting pool, designed so students can sit around its perimeter. Water in the pool comes from the cooling system in nearby Maucker Union. For this reason, the water must be drained each winter so the pipes will not freeze.

Critical Reaction: Onlookers responded to the sculpture in both positive and negative ways. The Northern Iowan student newspaper's editorial staff had a negative view of "Iowa Cycles." In the July 15, 1994 issue, a columnist stated that the pool (in which the sculpture was eventually placed) was unnecessary. On August 30, the staff stated in an editorial that the sculpture did not fit in with the Iowa way of life. They thought Las Vegas, Nevada would be a more appropriate location for, "this neon-lit, steel-girded work only serv[ing] to remind students of the high-tech, mechanized world we live in."

However, in a letter printed in the newspaper on September 9, 1994, a student responded to the editorial, saying that the work, "represents a new style to an old setting" and that incoming students should look at it as a "need to be creative, exciting, different; not stagnant, color-coded and camouflaged to fit in with their surroundings."

As "Iowa Cycles" was being installed, one woman stated that she loved it. Another passerby called it a monstrosity, mainly because he now had to walk around it to get to the Union entrance.

Compiled by Susan Basye
Special Collections and University Archives
March 1998