Artist's Comments

Detail - top center of mural, commemorative cup

Center Section

Detail - Deep blue curtains framing mural, with stars and symbols


Detail - Woman kneeling outdoors, holding plant

Left Side

Detail - Woman in lab, holding book

Right Side

Detail - two men, one seeing x-ray of hand, other reading papers from filing cabinet

Right Side



A general description of the artist's work is best set forth in the following paragraphs provided by Olson-Larsen Galleries of West Des Moines.

Doug Shelton, originally from Des Moines but now living in Arizona, is an artist and an accomplished painter who has documented his unique imagination on canvas for many years. Described loosely as surrealistic, his paintings are filled with whimsical and mysterious symbols, settings and characters. Each work can suggest many intriguing story lines or anecdotes to the viewer, but all stem from the artist's experience and stream of consciousness. Doug's environments are painted in a hyper-real fashion. Every detail and every element are pronounced and often heightened with spotlights or moonlight. The mystery that lurks within each painting and the feeling that something wonderful is going to unfold or the fact that magical things are happening at this very moment, make Doug's work continually intriguing. All of his works are exquisitely painted and he often crafts and ornaments unusual frames that serve as extensions of the piece.

In addition to his studio work, Doug is also known for his murals that decorate several buildings in downtown Des Moines including the Kirkwood Hotel, the Police Headquarters and the Skywalk System, as well as the Hotel Pattee in Perry. Doug has been recognized with several museum shows with his easel work and is included in the collections of the Principal Financial Group, the National Bank of Waterloo, Farm Bureau Insurance Company and the permanent collection of the Des Moines Art Center.

Artist's Comments about Unlimited Possibilities

The title refers to the life of the student as well as the life of the university. In contrast and complementary to the Grant Wood designed murals in the Parks Library which depict mature adults in society, I've focused on student learning activity.

The mural is divided into two sections - on the left is an agricultural setting, and on the right is a classroom setting. This can be viewed as town and country, city and rural, nature and civilization, etc.

Center Section

The center section is of a circular design, reflecting both the blue curtains and the rotunda ceiling. The main element of this section is the commemorative cup which celebrates the university as a whole. The scene reflected in the cup is a pathway which symbolizes an individual student's path through life. This path is overlaid on the earth indicating the global concerns and influence of the university.


The scenes in the mural are framed by large blue curtains. Blue is the color of the first place ribbon at fairs and suggests only the best. It is also suggestive of blueprints, the guide for building many things. It also suggests the magician's robe. This is to imply that regardless of how much knowledge we possess, much of the universe is still shrouded in mystery.

The curtains are covered with celestial images as well as images of more earthly nature: bits of schematics from electrical diagrams, images of individual colleges at the University, e.g. Engineering, Family and Consumer Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, Agriculture, Education, Business, Design, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the Library.

Left Side

Starting at the lower left hand corner, a female student is holding in her hands a piece of earth that resembles the State of Iowa. This suggests the future of Iowa is literally in the hands of the youth. Moving up and to the right, another female student has set aside her binoculars used for seeing distant objects, and with sketchbook in hand, is gazing off in the distance and imagining a future bit of molecular biology as seen through a doorway in time. The third student is viewing through a camera (working with light) a robin, the traditional harbinger of spring, the season of rebirth and growth. On the horizon is a typical barn but this barn has a face, suggestive of the family farm and a hope for its secure place in the future.

Right Side

This is a classroom/laboratory scene with old and new forms of information gathering. In the lower left corner is an old-fashioned television, the kind using vacuum tube amplification. This is to remind the viewer of the original electronic digital computer first developed at Iowa State College, which used vacuum tube technology.

To the right is a male student using a computer in an imaginative way to literally learn about himself. To his left is a student reading through a textbook. "Never overlook anything" would describe her thinking. Behind her to the left on the table are an old-time carpenter's ruler in the shape of a square root symbol, a pen and a piece of paper. These suggest some tools never really lose their usefulness.

To the right is a male student using a file cabinet to retrieve information (old knowledge as suggested by the scrolled paper). The female student at the top is drawing on a large scale computer screen filled with an electrical wiring schematic. She is working on "the wheels of change." The wheel of the past is a wagon wheel; the wheel of the present is shaped somewhat like a movie reel (movies being a major contemporary art form), and the wheel of the future is not quite seen in its entirety to the right. The apparition smoking up from the row of test tubes is meant to suggest the magical nature of much new technology. The city scene coming out of the mist implies that technology has the ability to be the crowning glory of civilization.

The trompe l'oeil section in the lower right hand corner provides space for artists' names and any other pertinent information.

-- Doug Shelton