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Shirley Wyrick photo.jpg





Sculpture Dimensions:

4 Columns, each 17'6" long  (13’h above ground – 4’6” below ground)

Each Column: 4500 pounds

Media: Cast Iron and CorTen Steel

Sigurd & Ann Anderson Residence

Southern Hills, Des Moines, Iowa

Although I worked at home on making the wood patterns for Eighth Continent  in my workshop under the garage and used the cement pad outside, it became especially important to me to find a place I could call a “studio” away from my home. I had completed  Post Sculpture an had earned my Masters Degree in Art and was working on the Andersons’ commission for Eighth Continent  when Eldon Prybil, a farmer living in the country east of Iowa City suggested I might rent an old farmhouse in the area from his father, Ralph Prybil.


It was exactly what I had been looking for and each day when I drove to it, I felt free of household duties and could concentrate on only making Art for the part of the day I could spend there until I needed to be home for our children and my husband and doing the “chores.”


Ralph raised pigs back of the lovely old barn and they were allowed to range free. They also were like pets because they learned to come to the fence when I talked with them. When I thought of moving my crucible furnace to “my farm,” Ralph let me erect a double high grain bin by the house and I invested in a gantry with a hoist, allowing me to lift heavy metal.


After a high wind destroyed the grain bin, I moved the gantry back to our house into a larger studio that we built onto the house.

B1 SW First Studio, Farmhouse triptych.jpg

When I was asked to propose an artwork for a specific site, I studied and researched the site and its history. I included in this study the aims of people or institutions commissioning the work and then I allowed time to let impressions and information percolate!

The inspiration for Eighth Continent came from my sustained viewing of the site in back of Ann and Sigurd Anderson’s home in Southern Hills, Des Moines, Iowa that sloped into a deep ravine. At night, that ravine was dark and mysterious with city lights twinkling on the horizon along its edge. Siting the sculpture in the ravine seemed to imply its submergence in a dark ocean.

In addition, Ann Anderson, as the master gardener that she was, had observed that Wyrick’s Post Sculpture forms seemed to “emerge from the ground” even though I had initially intended them to be thrust into the ground. Ann’s observation gave me the license to bring the “prongs” of the Posts above the ground and the forms of Eighth Continent, as they appear above ground, have an awesome beauty and convey additional meaning to the work.

The four forms’ relationship to each other changes as the viewer approaches, then walks around and among them. This is a very important part of the concept. The Anderson's agreed to have underground concrete “sockets” for each form installed to stabilize the sculptures and to allow the third set of prongs to be submerged (or rooted) in this earth-bonded work.

C1 Eighth Continent proposal drwg .jpg
C2 Eighth Continent 208 1980 charcoal-w.c.#567.jpg
C3 Eighth Continent proposal charcoal-w.c. c322.jpg
C4 Eighth Continent 202 1980 charcoal-w.c.#566.jpg
C5 Eighth Continent Proposal #202.jpg
C6 Eighth Continent 290 1981 charcoal-w.c. c568.jpg

Drawings based on Eighth Continent were important to me and many captured the basic concept of earth bonding. None of these drawings was realized in sculptural form. However, these drawings were especially important in helping me refine my charcoal drawings.


THE wood patterns for

eighth continent...

The foundry, Iowa Steel & Iron in Cedar Rapids, used the four-pronged rings as patterns for each of the grey iron castings. The body of each form was fabricated from CorTen steel by Ron’s welding shop in Coralville, Iowa.

D1 Eighth Continent 1977 wood pattern.jpg
D2 Eighth Continent wood pattern 1977 2.jpg

Ann Anderson and her son Sig came to see the rough iron castings at her farm studio. I did the finish work on the cast iron forms there. I could lift the forms with straps attached to the gantry hoist that was installed so it extended out of the tall grain bin. And the grain bin housed the small bronze foundry.

E1 1977,11 Iron casts for 8th Continent.jpg
A2 Eighth Continent c19_edited.jpg

"You can do anything you want"

Starla Smith’s article featuring Eighth Continent also serves as a biographical look at Wyrick. It was printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen on August 24, 1978.

F 8th Cont Starla article ICPC 8-24-78.jpg

Dawn's doorposts...

Wyrick, seeing the beauty of the wood patterns she created for Eighth Continent , sculpted Dawn's Doorposts, a mixed media work carved from laminated pine. Silver and copper screenwire were threaded through its metal midsection and the forms stood on a steel plate base. Dawn's Doorposts was shown at galleries and housed for a few years in a Twin Cities’ residence with high ceilings (it was well over eight feet tall).

Dawn's Doorposts was shown much later at the UIHC (University Hospitals). During that exhibition, the artist, having forgotten the original title, named it  Signs of the Quiet Sun as shown in this news article. Since that was the name of her earlier commissioned cast iron/Corten steel sculpture for the Wockenfuss family that had been relocated to California with them, she renamed this work Signs of the Quiet Sun 2. The work was later destroyed because of inadequate available storage.

G1 Dawn's Doorposts ____ wood_screen_steel #873.jpg
G2 Dawn's Doorposts (detail) 19-- laminated pine-screenwire-steel #44X.jpg
G3 Dawn's Doorposts ___ wood_screen_steel#45.jpg
G4 Dawn's Doorposts ___ wood_screen_steel  #312.jpg
G5 Dawn's Doorposts ___ wood_screen_steel #315.jpg
G6 Signs of Quiet Sun 2 aka Dawn's Doorposts.jpg

Exploring Laminated Wood

for Sculpture...

Wood is a fascinating and meaningful medium for sculpture, but Wyrick did not use it often for that purpose. The ventilation needed for sawdust exceeded the capacity built into her studio’s ventilation system so that necessitated her working outside when working with wood.

H1 & H2 Ash Ladder 1980 laminated pinewood_charred paper #269_#270.jpg
H3 Wood Lichen 1980 pine w charred paper #267-lighter.jpg

In the late 1980's, the Wyricks needed to remodel the main floor of their house to make it more functional and they asked an architect to design a modest change and only on the first floor. The front half of the house was not used—the small dining area and the narrow living room were not inviting and generally not used.


The architect completed his plan two years later—over-budget and changing the direction of stairs and roofline. Shirley had analyzed the situation and had been reassured that the roof would be able to support removal of some walls between the front and back areas of the main floor. She enlisted her dear relatives--Jim and Lorraine Worden--to help her demolish the walls and to clear the way for her to build some needed cabinetry. (She was able to accomplish the remodeling within the original budget also.)


In addition to some cabinetry, Shirley designed and constructed the laminated oak stair railing that is the central feature of the house’s main floor. Moving the railing from the back of the house (where she had built it in one piece) surprisingly required the help of several strong young men because of its weight!

J1 Bannister (front view).jpg
J2 Bannister (curve view).jpg
J3 Bannister (corner view).jpg


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