Dennis Patton (1943 - )
17 feet by 10 feet
In 1976, while vacationing in Ames, Iowa, sculptor Dennis Patton seized an opportunity for creating public art. With the assistance of the Octagon Art Center and the Iowa Department of Transportation, Patton produced the striking 15-foot-tall "Woman's head" (1976)1
Art and transportation exist in a dynamic world, home to natural forces and changing human needs. By 1998, the original redwood and twigs material for "Woman's Head" was beginning to rot away. Further, Ames' transportation needs were changing. City engineers planned to extend Grand Avenue south of Lincoln Way, using the abandoned Chicago & North Western Rail Co.'s rail right of way there to connect to south Ames and open a west entrance to Lincoln Center. The "Woman's Head" could not stand in the path of the combined forces of change.
Iowa DOT's Director of Facilities Support Lee Hammer contacted Patton about recreating the sculpture in steel and relocating it a few yards west on the Iowa DOT grounds. Patton agreed, intending to use the wooden sculpture as a pattern for the new steel structure.
By this time, Patton - born in California and relocated to Iowa - had completed another large public sculpture in steel: "In Transit," which was installed at the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids.2
On Oct. 20, 1998, Patton came to Ames to sign the contract3 for the new work and to haul "Woman's Head" (1976) to his workshop in Mount Vernon, Iowa. Points in the contract called on Patton to:
- Reconstruct "Woman's Head" in the approximate same size and shape using all steel components.
- Destroy the original wooden "Woman's Head."
- Never create another "Woman's Head" of any size or material.
"Woman's Head" (1976) was built over a three-day weekend in August 1976 from donated materials. Patton was paid $400 by the Octagon Arts Center.4
Twenty-two years later, the Iowa DOT, now sole-owner of "Woman's Head" because the Octagon donated the work to the Iowa DOT, would pay Patton $57,000 for the new work. A couple of things had changed since 1976, (1) Patton would now be working on a commissioned piece rather than on his own inspiration; (2) Patton would have to provide the steel and transportation for the work; and (3) Iowa would be paying from Art in State Buildings funds.
In 1979, the Iowa Legislature enacted the Art in State Buildings program, as defined in Iowa Code 304A sections 8-14. The program calls for 0.5 percent of construction and remodeling costs for state buildings to be set aside for fine arts.5
While the Iowa DOT administration offices were getting a facelift inside the building, Woman's Head would get a facelift outside.6
Hammer visited Patton's workshop a number of times to check on the progress of the new work in 1998 and 1999. Hammer took a number of pictures of "Woman's Head" under construction.
Patton had enjoyed the use of found twigs and branches in "Woman's Head" (1976) original hair, he had other plans for the new work. Patton told the Des Moines Register that the new hair would be made from two-inch steel tubing.
"She's going to look bitchin', fun, and cool," Patton said. "After you create that hair, you have to have the right face to support that coiffure."7
On Sept. 23, 1999, Iowa DOT employees got their first look at that new hairdo. Patton, traveling U.S. 30 from Mount Vernon to Ames, following the Vertical Clearance Restrictions on Primary Routes chart8 sent from the Iowa DOT to avoid damage to the sculpture or bridges along the way, brought "Woman's Head" (1999) home.
The sculpture was set in place near the southwest corner of Grand Avenue and Lincoln Way, facing northeast this time.