If you've ever hiked at Preparation Canyon in Monona County, you may have come across some metal pipes sticking out of the ground and wondered, "What in the world is that?!"
It's actually an art installation that was part of the Land of the Fragile Giants: Landscapes, Environments, and Peoples of the Loess Hills project 30 years ago!
For this project, "twenty-seven professional artists from Iowa and the Midwest visited the Loess Hills at various times throughout 1993 to gather insight for their projects. The result: a dramatic exhibition of paintings, sculpture, prints, and photographs that beautifully complement this volume's literary works. The twelve essayists also have strong ties to the Loess Hills. Each author has spent a significant portion of her or his life in the Hills. The scientists reinterpret their research within the framework of their experience; the humanists provide background and context for the scientists; the artists illuminate the whole." The art was commissioned by the Brunnier Art Museum at Iowa State University in Ames.
You can learn more here and buy the Land of the Fragile Giants book, edited by Cornelia Mutel and Mary Swander, at the University of Iowa Press website.
According to artist Gina Crandell, "On the third plateau of this ridge is a field of recycled well pipes which, like the legs of an invisible table top, extend the ground level. This environmental art project is designed to allow the steep slopes and unique qualities of the soil of the Loess Hills to be viscerally felt."
While there is currently no signage or information at the sculpture site, you can find it along Sarah's Trail, which runs through the Preparation Canyon Unit of Loess Hills State Forest and through Preparation Canyon State Park. The art piece is on the ridge to the southwest of the shelter.
Find maps of hiking trails at Loess Hills State Forest and Preparation Canyon State Park here.