The Left-sided Angel greets visitors beside the south entrance to the Parks Library. Designed by Stephen DeStaebler in 1986, the 465-pound cast bronze sculpture stands eight feet high on a six foot pedestal. DeStaebler, a Midwest-born artist living in Berkeley, California, created the figure with limbs missing from its right side to symbolize the fragility of the human condition. Indeed, a consistent theme of the artist's work is the precariousness of people's place on earth. According to the artist, "Everyone when they were a kid, stood on one leg. It takes a lot of balance. And the idea of balance with this piece is very important, because it contributes to a sense of precariousness. The ability of the angel to remain upright affirms the ability of mankind to stay in balance." The angel was commissioned as part of Iowa's Art in State Buildings Program, with additional funding from Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.
Stephen DeStaebler was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1933. He received his A.B. from Princeton University in 1954, and his M.A. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1961. Since the angel was erected in front of the Library, it has elicited more than its fair share of reactions, just as one of the jurors who helped select the commission predicted: "... this university is going to grow as a result of this experience; a little cognitive dissonance is good for everyone." The juror was Dr. B.J. Nierengarten-Smith, director, Laumeier Sculpture Garden, St. Louis, Missouri. As the artist responds: "I get the best reactions to my work from people who aren't artistic and react from the gut. From my point of view, a piece is working when it provokes reaction, whether positive or negative. What's not so great is when people don't react at all. That means there's no emotional punch."