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Sculpture Dimensions

26.5’w. X 33’ h.

Media: Cast Grey Iron


Johnson County Administration Building

913 South Dubuque Street

Iowa City, Iowa

To the artist, The River Time is a River Without Banks has been a rewarding work from the time she was commissioned to do the work in 1985. To her, over the years, she has received the best possible responses that can flow from a piece of Art in a Public Place.


It began with an unlikely commission being offered by The Johnson County Board of Supervisors to do an artwork on the lobby’s brick wall opposite the entry to the Johnson County Administration Building as it was being constructed. It was especially appealing to Wyrick because the competition was limited to artists in the Johnson County area. (The county’s selection committee expected proposals from the large number of fine artists in this area.)


Even though Wyrick had persisted in entering several competitions around the country via open calls or artist slide registries, it was difficult to be considered with the vast numbers of artists who submitted entries for each competition.


When this competition was offered, Wyrick decided to focus on the Iowa River and its tributaries within the Iowa City/Johnson County area. She was aware of the importance of rivers to the state of Iowa as well. As she developed the concept she found overlaying the pattern of the river with relief images could further enrich the artwork.

A1 The River proposal 1985 iron casting c180.jpg
A2 River Bend Star Trap  Proposal 1985 c179- casting.jpg
B1 The River Proposal 1985 paper_iron castings #175.jpg
B2 The River Proposal 1985 center_iron castings #177.jpg
C1 The River proposal 1985 3 panels.jpg

The proposal...

Wyrick had located and worked with Quality Foundry in Stockton, Iowa (a small iron foundry) to cast her iron relief, Entrance on Time. (That work was purchased by the Muscatine Art Center after her solo exhibition there). The foundry was happy to cast two iron reliefs for her use as part of her proposal for this project. And when she was awarded the commission, the foundry was eager to work with her on casting all of the pieces for The River Time is a River without Banks.

Johnson County had imposed a strict one-year timeline for the work’s completion and Wyrick often quipped while working on it that “you would think that date is carved in stone.” However, it actually turned out that the date was cast in a concrete cornerstone in the lobby before the competition was even underway!

D1 The River Installation 1986.jpg

Doing the work...

Since there was a very short timeline for Wyrick to complete the sculpture, she hired a University student part-time to help her soften (by pounding) over 1,000 pounds of plastilene (oil clay made of grease, motor oil and air-floated clay) to prepare the sculpture pieces for Wyrick to carve.

The demands of the work required Wyrick to rent a facility near her home where she could work on the pieces one by one after building a temporary hoist to position each piece for grinding, polishing, drilling and finishing. She drove a truck to transport patterns and castings to and from the foundry.

Among the many important aspects of this project, Wyrick consulted with a structural engineer about attaching the three-story high wall relief to the building’s brick wall. Glenn Shoemaker of Shoemaker Haaland was intrigued by the project.

In reviewing the building’s architectural drawings, Glenn found that the brick wall itself needed to have more stabilization and anchoring to the concrete wall in back of it as it was being constructed. Shoemaker became an important part of Wyrick’s sculptural works in the future because of his enthusiasm, creativity and technical savvy.

The Installation...

Another essential member of her team for this project was Iver Iverson who ran a business called Expanding Contracting, and he and his crew were tasked with installing The River over the Thanksgiving holiday. As with earlier work, Wyrick was astounded to see the scope of the work as it was being installed.

Because the sculpture is in a building that gets traffic for such things as voting, paying taxes and obtaining licenses, many people from all walks of life have shared their personal responses to the sculpture. Those responses range widely from recognition of river locations where they’ve been swimming or boating to what they see and relate to in the complex imagery on the sculpture. One day in 2019, a member of the Board of Supervisors, not recognizing Wyrick, was excited to show the artist and her visiting friend the sculpture, and told Wyrick how much the sculpture has meant to her over the years.

Two Opening Receptions...

Just a few days after the sculpture had been arduously installed over the week of Thanksgiving when the building could be closed, the formal opening for and dedication of the Johnson County Administration Building was held on December 6, 1986. The event was well attended with Irving Weber, the area’s popular historian as speaker.  At the building dedication, the sculpture drew spontaneous applause!

E1 The River JCAO Grand Opening 12-7-86.jpg

During the process of The River’s making, Milli Gilbaugh, one of the selection panel judges and a volunteer in the arts for Solon Schools arranged to have the Solon school children come to the building more than once to meet and talk with the artist. The Solon teachers followed up by having the children write stories or do artwork with a river theme.
Wyrick easily convinced the Board of Supervisors that a second Opening for the River sculpture itself be held after the first of the year in order to give her time to mount an exhibition around the building of the artworks that had been generated by the Solon students along with a selection of her artist friends’ works that related to The River.
The second reception for the sculpture, The RiverTime is a River Without Banks was held on February 15, 1987, and was highly successful.

F1-F2 The River Program diptych.jpg
F3 The River postcard.jpg

The artist and The River...

Photograph taken by John English, a friend from the East Coast.

G1 The artist by the river.jpg


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