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21st Boundary.jpg
boundries shirley welding.jpg




Sculpture Dimensions: 60’ x 120”
4 COLUMNS: 4’x 8’x 26’h. (21’ above ground)

Media: Cast Iron and CorTen Steel

Regency West Office Park

4800 Westown Parkway

West Des Moines, Iowa


21st Boundary is an expression of many of my own intensely personal concerns but, most importantly, 21st Boundary — with its metaphoric allusions—is specific to today and is meant to be a signifier of our time.

Its four steel and iron column forms—projectiles—express the opposed forces I see as central to our own time, yet they are reminders of far earlier art forms. They push upward, out of the earth mound—from the mythic base—drawing from primordial depths of consciousness. The inner reliefs, the revealed interiors of these forms, posit messages about and for us which must be interpreted and reinterpreted by each person who experiences this work.

Since recent explorations have taken us beyond the readily visible world which has been the basis of much of our visual art during the immediate past, we now depend upon high technology to gather and disseminate this not readily seen—even non-visual—data. Still we depend upon human experience and emotion to communicate and to “picture” for us this new information and to interpret its immense impact on our civilization. Therefore, we must expect our forms, symbols and imagery to differ from the past while at the same time show our close harmony with much earlier civilizations, civilizations whose drawings also were based more on acts of faith and imagination than on direct observation.

As we challenge boundaries in exploration, our fears of the new, not readily visible world push us back toward isolation and denial of the new. 21st Boundary is perhaps not “about” the delicate balance we must strike to survive: in cycling between exploration, which breaks old restraints, expands boundaries and includes the excluded; and isolation, which erects new boundaries, boundaries that exclude and which, if allowed to stand, will lead us to self- and world-destruction.

The concept of 21st Boundary  was based on four split columns with CorTen steel shells. Cast iron reliefs were to be contained on the exposed insides of each of the four columns. Concrete foundations placed under ground level allowed the sculpture to be earth-bonded, and to increase interest, each column was set at a different height on a contoured mound or “berm.”


Preparing for casting...

B1 21st B relief frame.jpg
B2 21st B start reliefs.jpg

The first step was to construct the framework for the central reliefs that were to be carved in plastilene (oil clay made of grease, motor oil, air-floated clay). A structure for two halves of each single column’s reliefs were worked on in tight quarters adjacent to the artist’s studio. The two halves of each column were laid horizontally side-by-side and those reliefs were completed before using the same framework to do another column’s reliefs. The top and bottom molds for all four columns’ castings were carved in laminated wood.

"...WHATmarks [art] off from all other organized human activity, is that it does not seek control through explanation, that it offers the freedom to experience and question.”   

- Robert Morris, The Arts (July 1979)

"...STATES of happiness, mythology, faces belabored by time, certain twilights and certain places try to tell us something, or have said something we should not have missed, or are about to say something: this imminence of a revelation which does not occur is, perhaps, the aesthetic phenomenon.”     

- Jorge Luis Borges, “The Wall and the Books,” Labyrinths


My work has been influenced by our relationships to the earth and to other humans: by visible and invisible boundaries; by concepts of TIME measured by interval, movement and change; by the many forms of communication—visual, verbal, tactile, others—which intertwine and overlay one another in art; by the interaction of the public with art and how people can add meaning to a work of art.    



The Mid-America Group

West Des Moines, IA   1981–1984



The Regency West Office Park

50th and Westown Parkway

West Des Moines, IA   1982–1984

OVERALL DIMENSIONS: 60’ x 120’  x 26'h.

BROCHURE Richard Blazek | Alan Swanson

PHOTOGRAPHY Stefani Karakas | Shirley Wyrick



Securing acceptance for

the 21st Boundary proposal...

After completing Eighth Continent  and having a solo show at Percival Galleries in DM, Wyrick was gaining recognition as an Iowa artist. Marvin Pomerantz, head of the Mid-America Group asked Wyrick if she would be interested in proposing an artwork for The Regency West Office Park in West Des Moines that his company owned. Wyrick was excited to tackle this challenge.


The architect for the building addition had proposed a large-scale artwork to be sited in the sunken plaza outside one of the buildings. But in viewing the area and thinking about the advisability of putting a large artwork where people were supposed to have lunch breaks and social gatherings, Wyrick proposed that a large-scale sculpture should be sited near to the plaza but not within it.


Wyrick was also continuing her interest in creating groupings of sculpture that could be seen and experienced from many different vantage points. She also saw the possibility of continuing to bind her sculpture to the earth.


Wyrick had worked for several weeks nonstop and exclusively on the design of 21st Boundary and the proposal for the sculpture when she was phoned and told that the architect did not want her to submit her proposal, without ever having seen it! She was devastated. Mr. Pomerantz, becoming aware of her dismay, invited Wyrick to come to West Des Moines to make her proposal to him and his architect. The miracle of acceptance came on the same day she presented her proposal!

Models for 21st Boundary...

C2 21st B (MOLECULAR).jpg
C1 21st B sketches + + start of (MOLECULAR).jpg
C3 21st B (WORLD) modeled in plastilene.jpg
C5 21st B (WORLD) modeled in plastilene.jpg
C4 21st B (WORLD) modeled in plastilene.jpg
C7 21st B Column modeled in plastilene.jpg
C6 21st B Column modeled in plastilene.jpg
C8  21st B  part of (ECONOMY-LANGUAGE) column.jpg
C9  21st B modeled in plastilene.jpg.jpg
C10  21st B (SPACE 1).jpg
C11  21st B.(SPACE 2).jpg
C12  21st B (SPACE 3).jpg

Each of the four columns has a different theme and has three tiers of drawings, ranging from the lower abstract reliefs up to more representational ones at the top. Wyrick intended these themes as an overall statement of the major “boundaries” civilization was confronting as the Millennium approached. The 4 first column focused on the area of the “Molecular,” the second column engaged with the “World,” the third column considered “Language” and the fourth column is closely connected with “Space.” Each of these areas of thought and exploration was already under intense investigation.

In addition, Wyrick established connections between the four columns’ top level of reliefs, those of the mid-level set of reliefs and those at the bottom level.

Completing the patterns

to be  trucked to the foundry...

D1 21st B PMC patterns.jpg

Once the relief work on each column was complete, PMC 724, a Polyurethane layer (somewhat like “rubber”), was spread over the plastilene reliefs. The plyurethane layers (backed by a thick layer of plaster) became the “negative” patterns that the foundry used to create the final “positive” iron castings poured in molten iron.


Checking the full-sized

pattern in wood...

E1 - 21st B wood forms full-size.jpg
E1 - 21st B wood forms full-size.jpg

It was important to know that all the patterns, including the wood ones above and below the reliefs would also fit together. A final check back at Wyrick’s studio was made prior to trucking all the patterns to the foundry.


Delivering the finished castings to the metal fabricator/welder...

F1 21st B loading casting.jpg

Trucking all castings to the metal fabricator/welder was the next step in the process. Wyrick spent hours cleaning, chipping and grinding the rough castings outside. She worked alongside the welder as the weather grew colder, giving him encouragement to keep working outside.

Installation completed

in November, just as the first

snowfall started...     

H2 21st B Installation.jpg
H1 21st B Installation.jpg
H3 21st Boundary DM Register 11-22-83.jpg

Installation of 21st Boundary was truly exciting. There was no way of anticipating the awe felt by all people on site as the forms were lifted from horizontal into their full vertical height and onto their concrete platforms below ground. It was a thrilling sight!


The Cedar Rapids welder for the project had threatened to stop working outside because of increasingly cold weather but he was so proud to be helping on installation. The first drops of snow fell on the foundation concrete as he completed his welding on the foundation.


Dedication and Celebration

of 21st Boundary... 

J2 21st B (Language) form in color.jpg
J3 21st B Program cover2 6-24-1984.jpg
J4 21st B Program printed.jpg
J5 21st Boundary postcard.jpg


K1 21st B DM Register 6-24-1984 B.jpg
K2  21st B Earth-bonded ICPC 7-26-1984 3.jpg
K3 21st B Establishing Boundaries - Hobbs.jpg

Short Film...

The installation and dedication of 21st Boundary may be seen on the Craig Wyrick-Solari video on YouTube.


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