Corn as art

Field of Dreams in Dyersville, IA by John Bollwitt.

We often talk about the science of corn (aka maize) but there’s so much more to it. I’ll be leaving corn country soon to start a new job, and I know I’ll miss being in the center of so much maize.

Consider the natural beauty of a cornfield swaying in a summer breeze, with killdeer and red-winged blackbirds calling amongst the buzzing of grasshoppers.

It’s just a cornfield, but the combination of symmetry and asymmetry from afar and up close, of being in the presence of a plant that has been touched by humans for thousands of years, somehow makes it a very interesting place to be – even when I have many hours of pollinating or harvesting behind and ahead of me.

Center panel of the Evolution of Corn mural by Lowell Houser.

Each time I’ve visited the post office here in Ames, I’ve noticed a beautiful mural. This time, I asked about it and was directed to the Ames Historical Society website (the mural inspired this post). ”Evolution of Corn” was painted in 1938 by Lowell Houser. It is oil on canvas, an impressive 18’2” x 5’9”. The details are stunning, a tribute to corn farmers and breeders from both ancient and modern times. If you’re ever in Ames, I highly recommend seeing it in person.

In addition to all of the art you can find around the corner in Ames, Iowa State University has the largest art collection of any university in the United States. You can view it though the eyes of a student at the Art on Campus blog. It’s not all about corn, but agriculture is a strong theme. The art of Iowa State has inspired quite a bit of poetry, much of it with strong agriculture and science themes.

I’ve lived in many places, but Ames, Iowa has stolen my heart. Ames is such a lovely place, in part because of all the corn, and all of the art, but also because of the people. It’s so nice, we need our own song:

Ames, Ames, gee whiz,
Now we will sing and tell what it is,
A swell little city of which we are proud,
Her praises we’ll sing, in melody loud,
A beautiful city as ev’ry one knows,
In the heart of the state where the tall corn grows.

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Anastasia is Policy Director of Biology Fortified, Inc. and the Co-Executive Editor of the Biofortified Blog. She has a PhD in genetics with a minor in sustainable agriculture from Iowa State University. Her favorite produce is artichokes!