Posted on November 3, 2020 at 9:00 AM by Sydney Marshall
In the lower level of Morrill Hall, the hallway exhibition From Time Immemorial: Art as Commemoration explores the significance commemoration plays in the Art on Campus Collection and on the creation of a public record of history on Iowa State’s campus. Some of the objects in the exhibition are not traditional examples of memorials to significant individuals or historical events, but instead honor hard work, mentorship, and education. Looking closely at one of the smallest objects in the exhibition, this idea of commemorating the struggle of work to create a brighter future is particularly poignant today, on Election Day.
Nina de Creeft Ward’s maquette for Teamwork is barely four inches tall, but the movement of the draft horses can be seen clearly. The pair of horses are pulling against their harnesses, hair whipping back as they pull the weight of a presumably heavy load. The full-scale sculpture that was produced as a result of this maquette is housed in the Applied Sciences Building and is meant to represent the mentorship that occurs between faculty and students through their educational experience. This “teamwork” lightening the load for a student struggling through college and the first years of their professional life.
On this Election Day, the small but mighty work of art of Teamwork takes on a different layer of meaning to me. It is interesting the artist chooses to show the horses struggling to pull the weight of their load, but does not sculpt the wagon or plow. The strapping of the horses’ rigging is literally carved into the clay bodies, calling into attention the hard work the pair is doing. I reflect on the countless hours of preparation put in by individuals leading up to this historic election day to protect the act and rights of the people choosing our leaders. The beauty of this struggle is that because of the hard work and participation of thousands of individuals, many of our fellow Americans will not feel the weight of the effort it takes to uphold the heavy load of democracy, of freedom, as they go to vote on Election Day. With each vote that is successfully counted and with each person’s voice heard, that load gets a little bit lighter.
When looking at art, I encourage you to look deeply and notice how your interpretation of what is happening within that work of art changes depending on your own personal experiences or current events.
IMAGE: Teamwork, 1995 by Nina de Creeft Ward (American, b. 1933). Terra cotta. In the Art on Campus Preparatory Studies and Maquette Collection, Christian Petersen Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. U95.43