Since it was installed in the fall of 2008, I have yet to hear someone say something positive about the big orange sculpture in front of the new University of Michigan Museum of Art — Orion by Mark di Suvero. While I’m not really offended by this, I do think the sculpture deserves some credit.

What doesn’t offend me is how some people simply find it ugly, grotesque or a “monstrosity in orange.” How can I, or anyone, disagree with these sentiments? Art is, by nature, subject to opinion and open to interpretation. What I find sublime, another may find unsightly. I’m not writing to convince you that this piece is aesthetically pleasing — that’s a battle even I’m not foolish enough to instigate.

But what I can do is tell you why I like Orion, and, more importantly, why I think it’s significant as a symbolic representation — not the symbolic representation — of the University’s past, present and future.

Located within a triangle formed by the Michigan Union, Angell Hall and the Law Quad, the sculpture garners associations with the University’s rich history through its close proximity to, arguably, the three most recognizable buildings on campus. Acting as the façade of the University, these buildings are designed in various architectural styles often associated with institutions of higher learning (Oxbridge, neoclassical, etc.) and thus connote a sense of age and wisdom. These connotations ground the sculpture in the University’s heritage and give it a metaphorical foundation.

The sculpture itself projects what I see as the University’s present and future, beginning with the three supporting legs (the literal foundation). Leaning away from the Union, the bulk of the weight rests on the thickest I-beam. The giant ‘X’ formed by the other two legs stabilizes the structure and converges along with three amorphous curves. These three legs give the piece its literal and metaphorical stability, a kind of heroic stoicism. At the intersection, the curves facilitate and frame a transition to the upper arms and skewed third leg. Projecting wildly into space, they stand for Michigan’s future, a strong and dynamic beacon, precariously growing out of its strong foundation. Contrasted against and complemented by the blue of the sky, the orange arms appear to soar. I must admit that I can’t help but feel inspired by such a beautiful combination of art and engineering.

I ask not that you fall in love with this piece or even try to think of it as anything other than ugly, but I do ask that you reconsider your view that it is a scar on the face of campus. In context, Orion symbolizes what we have to look forward and reminds us of what we love about the University of Michigan.

Ian Sinclair is an LSA sophomore.

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