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Iowa Portraits: Artwork reflects the face of public health across the state.

Caught in a moment of time, the portraits of a dozen Iowans gaze over the atrium of the College of Health Building. Each frame holds the snippet of a story – a young boy in his family’s apple orchard, an elderly farmer cradling a pumpkin, a man in a cowboy hat leaning casually against a lamp post, a woman with her arms crossed over a flowing tunic – inviting viewers to imagine the thoughts and circumstances of each individual.

University planners commissioned artist Peter Feldstein, well-known for his earlier photography work in The Oxford Project, to create the Iowa Portraits installation for the College of Public Health Building.

 “Everybody in the state is in some way affected by what the college does here,” says Feldstein. “So that was where I started; I wanted to have representation in terms of occupation, gender, age… all those issues.”

Feldstein traveled throughout the state photographing the diversity of residents. From more than 300 images, he chose 12 that reflected an iconic representation of the face of public health in Iowa.

The portraits are approximately 20 percent larger than life size. Using a special process, the images were etched onto glass panels that were then installed throughout the interior of the building.

Up close, the images are quite coarse, but “when you move away, what just blows me away is how much detail you can see,” says Feldstein. “I knew the softness of these images and the tone of them would warm the building up in a sense, and give it a humanity.”

Feldstein sees his art as a reflective act; a dialog. “My images are objects upon which to reflect and consider who we are and how we got to be like this.”

Feldstein has exhibited nationally and internationally and his work is included in several national collections. For 32 years, he taught photography and digital imaging at the University of Iowa School of Art & Art History. Previous to that he taught in St. Louis, Boston, and New York.

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Several quotes were transcribed from a video by Ben Hill that orginally appeared in The University of Iowa Spectator.

Photo by Tom Jorgensen