Art imitates life, or life imitates art?

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I recently took a day trip up into New York State along the Hudson River, with stops at Dia:Beacon as well as the town of Kingston. When I first saw this Richard Serra sculpture at Dia:Beacon, I saw it in terms of Serra’s work overall, meaning I was visually reading it as a massive curved abstract sculpture filling a tight space, forcing the viewer to react to it in a confined environment. The title of this sculpture is “Union of the Torus and the Sphere,” made by Serra in 2001.

However, when I was exploring the waterfront in Kingston later in the day, I encountered this view of the bow of the 1898 steam tugboat “Mathilda.” This suddenly gave me a different perspective on Serra’s piece, as it now felt more like a slightly distorted bow of a large ocean liner. My guess is that Serra didn’t intend it to be such a specific visual reference to a boat, but with seeing these both on the same day, it was hard for me to avoid the correlation.

In his 1889 essay The Decay of Lying, Oscar Wilde wrote that “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.” What do you think? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below. Also, scroll down below the first picture for some additional comparison views between the Serra sculpture and the Mathilda tugboat.

Richard Serra sculpture and Mathilda Tugboat

Richard Serra sculpture and Mathilda tugboat

Views of Richard Serra sculpture and Tugboat Mathilda

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