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ISU graduate student’s steel artwork installed on Marion sculpture trail

October 10, 2013


"Ascension" steel sculpture by integrated visual arts graduate student Earle Rock installed in Marion's Lowe Park.

AMES, Iowa — A golden ribbon of steel now rises from the native prairie in Marion's Lowe Park—one of a series of large-scale sculptures commissioned by the Marion Arts Council for installation along its new sculpture trail.

Titled "Ascension," the piece was designed by Earle Rock, Des Moines, an Iowa State University graduate student in integrated visual arts.

Rock developed his winning design in then-Lecturer Michael Stanley’s spring 2013 contemporary sculpture class, which was invited to submit proposals to the arts council.

Installed in late August, "Ascension" is roughly 13 feet wide by 8 feet high and 21 feet long. It is constructed of two elements: an 8-inch-wide, half-inch-thick, 31-foot-long steel ribbon rolled into a three-dimensional extrusion of the mathematical formula for phi (1 x 1.61834)—also known as the Golden Mean—and a 2-inch-diameter, 21-foot-long steel rod.

"The Golden Mean is represented throughout nature in such places as the spiral of the Milky Way, in sea shells as well as in the seed patterns of many flowers. It is considered a perfect shape mathematically and therefore the most pleasing to the eye. This was the basis of the Parthenon in Athens, the Taj Mahal in India, the Mona Lisa and Michelangelo's David," Rock said.

"The Golden Mean has always mesmerized me with its hypnotic pattern, which is why I chose to delve into its mysteries by turning the formula into a literal and visual example, leaving the math to speak for itself through the simplest and most elegant of shapes," he said.

Because he'd never produced a sculpture so large, Rock's first challenge was to find a company to construct the piece within his budget. He worked with Custom Steel Services of Ames to fabricate and paint the sculpture with high-quality gold automotive pain to resist fading and wear.

"Since this was my first time contracting with a company to build something I had designed, I had to learn how to communicate exactly what I needed to see to the people who were actually making the piece. In prior projects, I knew what I wanted and worked with the material until what was in front of me matched the vision in my head," Rock said.

"I quickly realized that I needed to be present at every junction, every time the piece had the potential to sway from my intent, and make sure that what was coming to fruition matched with my vision."

Once completed, the sculpture was transported to Marion and installed on concrete footings. Visitors may use the trail and view the sculptures during normal park hours.

Earle Rock, Integrated Visual Arts graduate student, (515) 779-7559,
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, (515) 294-9289,