Sena and I took a walk down Scott Boulevard today. The weather was practically balmy, compared to how cold it has been. Forty degrees above zero compared to 9 degrees below feels miraculous.
We walked past the Harvest Preserve entry. Across the street is what we’ve just learned is an old building that is known as the “Haunted Barn” (photo taken in August 2021).
We passed the 20-foot-tall, 110-ton Sitting Man sculpture, now on the west side of Scott Boulevard after it was moved from the east side of the road in July, 2020.
Today was the first time we trekked past the Sitting Man to Rochester Avenue and beyond. If we hadn’t, we would not have noticed a fascinating, blindingly white abstract sculpture mounted on a concrete block which we initially believed was on the Harvest Preserve property at the northwest corner of the intersection. Sena said it looked like a person, noting the head, arms, and body. I didn’t notice that.
After we got back home, I couldn’t find out anything about it on the web, no matter how much I connected the search terms to Harvest Preserve, the Sitting Man and so on. I found only one item with a photo and it was an announcement about a tour on Harvest Preserve in 2018. The impression is that the sculpture is on the property.
I sent an email inquiry to Executive Director of the Harvest Preserve Foundation, Inc., Julie Decker, whose email address is available on the website.
Ms. Decker informed me that the sculpture is technically not on Harvest Preserve property. She knew the sculpture is entitled “Family,” and the artist’s name was Eugene Anderson, who died in 2008. That’s all she knew.
It turns out that what little she knew led to an astonishing story that was even deeper and more engaging than we imagined. You can read the obituary of the Iowa City artist Eugene Anderson on legacy dot com. The highlights are that he started his career in architecture, was the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics (UIHC) architect for 25 years, and then began creating original art work to display in the hospital to comfort patients. He later became a full-time sculptor, and was on the board of directors for “Arts Iowa City.”
I was a medical student, resident, faculty member and a consulting psychiatrist at UIHC, a career starting in 1988 and ending with my retirement in June of 2020. It’s possible I saw some of Anderson’s work while I was galloping around the hospital.
In 1994 he created the “Family Group” series of sculpture which have been displayed at Chait Galleries in Iowa City, Des Moines Art Center, and the Brunnier Art Museum in Ames, Iowa. The piece we saw might have been one of those. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything on the web about the series.
And what is more intriguing, Anderson also traveled extensively, even to Egypt where he cruised on the Nile and took a sunrise balloon ride over the pyramids.
How is it possible that so little of Eugene Anderson’s life and work are not better known? Come to think of it, I guess time can erase the memory of our accomplishments.
This little story reminded me of the poem “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley. I’ve forgotten all of my college freshman English Literature but a web search indicates that Ozymandias was based on Ramesses II, a king of ancient Egypt. Ozymandias was a great ruler of a vast empire. His sculptor built a huge monument in the desert and gave it the oft-quoted inscription, “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Percy Bysshe Shelley-1792-1822
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
Today we searched for links on the web to find out more about a mysterious sculpture. We found links of a different kind, links to a stranger and to the near and the ancient past. Anderson’s sculpture, “Family,” is still standing, tall, clean, and bright for all to see.