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I'm grateful for carbs. And sculptures of food and home.

Posted on April 16, 2020 at 3:00 PM by Brooke Rogers

From large-scale murals in highly trafficked public spaces to sculptures tucked into secluded alcoves, the Art on Campus Collection has something for every art lover that steps foot onto Iowa State University’s campus. A fact that may seem surprising to some, Iowa State University is home to one of the largest campus public art programs in the United States. Officially formalized in 1980, the Art on Campus Collection includes the acquisition, care and maintenance, scholarship and educational programing for over 2,500 works of art. One of the sculptures from this collection has been on my mind since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic - Aequanimitas by Tom Askman.

Found just outside of the Human Nutritional Science building is a large metal and concrete installation within a lush courtyard. This courtyard is a time line of the food chain and the steps or choices that a person makes regarding food each day.As one enters the path to the courtyard the first part of the installation seen is a giant arch created by four bronze rods with a variety of foods balanced inside of the rods. Walking through the arch leads to a concrete pedestal topped with a draped bronze tablecloth, a hearty loaf of bread and a long-bladed knife. Below the tabletop is a bronze plaque with the classic triangular food pyramid. Looking past the pedestal the path directs you to an aluminum and stainless-steel gazebo designed in the image of a house with the silhouette of a man as the entryway. At the base of the house is a set of stairs to guide you inside, leading to a stainless-steel picnic table with benches on two sides. The table top is empty and seems to ask visitors to share a meal on top of it. If one had the time, they could sit at the picnic table bench and overlook the richly planted landscape and admire the installation in its entirety. 

When I contemplate this artwork, I reminisce about the times I’ve shared meals with friends and family, leading to a sense of home and peace within myself. The act of breaking bread with others is a ritual that many of us are craving as this global pandemic unsettles our society and daily lives. 

I am yearning for the nurturing of the human body and spirit that is so adeptly displayed in Aequanimitas. In times of crisis it is not surprising that many of us turn to the comfort of food- some of which are represented in the installation as wheat, pasta, and bread (hello carbs!)- and seek a human connection around a delicious meal. For me the new reality of what the next few weeks and possibly months of social distancing look like begins to set in as I attempt to find a new rhythm and balance in my life. While reflecting on what Aequanimitas symbolizes to me, I discovered that Aequanimitas is Latin for balance. Balance is not only the central theme of the installation but my goal for persisting during this global catastrophe. I look forward to the day when I can sit around the Aequanimitas’ picnic table sharing a meal with friends and co-workers to celebrate our resiliency.

Aequanimitas, 1992 by Tom Askman. Buildings Project for the Center for Designing Foods to Improve Nutrition. In the Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. Located in the courtyard of the Human Nutritional Sciences Building. U92.616a-f

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