the tilted arc

It’s time to take a break from taking a break from studying. (It makes sense, I promise.)

During one of my woeful attempts at being motivated this dreadful finals week, I came across a huge work by Richard Serra, called The Tilted Arc. Serra designed it for the Federal Plaza in New York City, a plaza marked by the unique curved spokes radiating from the fountain.

 The sculpture was commissioned by the city and paid for by tax dollars. It is a unique piece because it is specifically designed for the exact site. The Tilted Arc is made from cor-ten steel, a type of metal that is very susceptible to weathering and rust, achieving an aged look in a relatively short period of time. The arc is slightly curved to mimic the design of the plaza ground, creating a unity with the features already present. 

But eight years after it was installed, the city had it removed. People hated it. It was huge, bulky, obstructive, unattractive. Snow piled up around the base in the wintertime. 

But that is the very beauty of The Tilted Arc. It forced people to find a new route across the plaza. It blocked the view, yet exposed a new way of looking at the buildings. A piece of steel challenged the everyday, the routine, the monotony of a nine-to-five white collar business area. 

What the audience failed to see what the intentional design by the artist. Their elongated path to the door was actually the scenic route. The people did not understand that rather than create a hindrance, Serra wanted to set them free. 

I have a plan for my life. I have a general idea of what I want my life to look like a week from now, six months from now, 10 years from now, and I think I know how to get there. I know which turns to take and which shortcuts will get me there faster. I’m walking across the plaza.

Then comes an obstacle. From my low perspective, it seems unsurmountable. It looms large, blocking my view until I can no longer see the end of my path. Yet from above, the solution is apparent: Walk around. It takes longer and requires more energy. Pointless, worthless, inefficient, a waste of time.

God has created an intricate plan for my life, yet all I can think about is getting to the door in as direct a route as possible. He has set up obstacles in my path, but they aren’t there to frustrate me and waste my time and energy. The hardships help me see in a new way; they teach and strengthen. They are meant to give me a greater appreciation for the love I live in. 

I moan and groan to the Creator, asking him to remove the obstacles and to pave an easy road. But how much would I miss if he listened? I would be trapped in indifference, content to never look beyond my own nose. The wonder of it all is that when I reach the edge of the plaza, I reach the same end point I dreamed of, yet as a completely different person: someone exposed to beauty and pain, stronger and wiser.. And that was the purpose all along.

PS- If you would like to read more about the Tilted Arc Controversy, check out this PBS article.

(Richard Serra, The Tilted Arc, Cor-ten steel, 1981)


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This entry was posted on 12.13th.10 by in Art, Faith.


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