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Interpreting the G-Nome Project

Posted on 10/07/2020 at 04:00 PM by Adrienne Gennett


For the exhibition Who Am I?, now on view in the Christian Petersen Art Museum, I asked various faculty, staff and Iowa State community members to write interpretations of works of art from the University Museums’ permanent collection. I wanted to elicit varying points of view because art is subjective, what I may see and interpret will most likely be very different from what you see and interpret. Neither is right or wrong, they are our personal expressions of what we are seeing before us, influenced by our lived experiences. The exhibition is an opportunity to include other voices and analyses of the art I look at all the time, it helps me as a curator to see and hear other points of view that I can then incorporate into my understanding of the art in the permanent collection.

One of the best known, and possibly most divisive, examples of public art in the Art on Campus Collection is the Molecular Biology Building’s G-Nome Project by Andrew Leicester, completed in 1991. It is one that the Museums often use for a variety of curriculum integrations as it filled with thought provoking imagery and the only example on campus where the art was completely integrated throughout the entirety of the building, from floor to roof. Art fills the interior and exterior, allowing for ample opportunity to question – both the art and the research occurring within the building.

For the exhibition I asked three different faculty members to write interpretations of the art in the Molecular Biology Building, they either chose specific sites and works of art or the installation as a whole. Dr. Clark Wolf, Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Bioethics Program, often uses the installation as a showpiece for his students, examining how the art questions the ethical issues that arise in the work performed in the building and his interpretation reflects upon those questions raised. Dr. John Cunnally, Professor of Art History, focuses upon the four large G-Nomes who stand at attention on the roof of the building, perhaps guarding or calling out to the world the importance of science. Claire Kruesel, Assistant Teaching Professor in English, wrote a highly personal account of what the sculpture Forbidden Fruit (located in the atrium) meant to her as a student during a particularly hard time in her life and how the sculpture, along with the entire building, continues to hold an important space in her memory. Each interpretation is influenced by the author’s experiences with the art and the building, and each has a unique envisioning of what the art is depicting or could possibly mean.

On October 19, all three contributors will discuss in-person their interpretations and thoughts on the art of the Molecular Biology Building from 12:30 to 1:00 p.m. in the Christian Petersen Art Museum, 1017 Morrill Hall. Registration is required as we can only accommodate 10 people in-person, but the discussion will be recorded and available on the University Museums YouTube channel. Also, the interpretations are available in the Online Gallery Guide for the Who Am I? exhibition.

TOP IMAGE: G-Nomes, 2016 by Andrew Leicester and manufactured by Thomas Stancliffe, Public Art Incubator. Aluminum. Located on the roof of the Molecular Biology Building. Commissioned by University Museums. In the Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. U2016.919abcd
 

LEFT: Study for G-Nome, 1989 by Andrew Leicester (British – American, b. 1948) and David Dahlquist (American, b. 1958). Pencil and red pencil on paper. Gift of David Buell Dahlquist and Cheryl Y. Dahlquist. In the Art on Campus Preparatory Studies and Maquettes Collection, Christian Petersen Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. U2011.174c

RIGHT: Study for Forbidden Fruit, 1989 by Andrew Leicester (British – American, b. 1948) and David Dahlquist (American, b. 1958). Red and green crayon, ink, and pencil on paper. Gift of David Buell Dahlquist and Cheryl Y. Dahlquist. In the Art on Campus Preparatory Studies and Maquettes Collection, Christian Petersen Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. U2011.174d

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