He breaks the universal sphere’s
To show the meshing gears
And cogs within.
-John Scattergood (excerpt from “Six Ways of Looking at a Pomodoro”)1
Recently, I was given a tour of the United Nations campus as a part of my internship with the Center for Family and Human Rights. The large meeting rooms and especially the General Assembly were awe-inspiring, but what truly caught my attention was the symbolism inherent in the artwork all around the grounds.
From the “knotted gun” Non-Violence sculpture to the murals on the walls, symbolism runs deeply through the artwork at the United Nations (UN). Not surprisingly, much of the meaning speaks of peace. Surprisingly, much of the inherent symbolism finds its roots in Christianity, or at least finds common ground with traditional Judeo-Christian values.
One of the most prominent pieces of art that captures the attention upon reaching the entrance plaza is the “Sphere within Sphere”, or “Sfera con Sfera”, by artist Arnaldo Pomodoro2 (b. Morciano di Romagna, Italy, 1926).3
Pomodoro studied stage design, worked as a goldsmith, and consulted for the restoration of public buildings3, leaving traces of his experience detectable in his work. Pomodoro constructed multiple statues as part of his series of spheres, with works at the UN plaza, the University of California at Berkeley, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tehran, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rome, Cortile del Belvedere at The Vatican Museums, and the Berkeley Library forecourt at Trinity College Dublin.2
Writers have offered many perspectives on the spheres, including descriptions such as “gleaming skin and solid flesh of…bronze”4 and “machinery of cogs and gears”4. The spheres have been compared to a clock and a grand piano.5 Some interpret the works as “suggest[ing] a continual process of self-destruction and regeneration”3 or discuss how they speak to the world’s complexity and fragility.5
The sphere is a beautiful metaphor for the individual person. Every day in the UN, complex issues are argued and promoted. Each individual comes with a professional “outer core” presentation, gleaming brightly with potential. Each individual also comes with a complex “inner core”, a network of worldviews, narratives, and perhaps agendas that make up their argument or system of beliefs.
If we look only at the outside of the sphere, we miss the beautiful symphony within. Likewise with another person, we do them and ourselves a disservice if we see their words only through our own worldview and neglect to ask questions and understand their perspective. In discussing so many controversial and complex issues, it is imperative to crack open the core and to reveal what thoughts and beliefs are truly driving the arguments.
In discussing so many controversial and complex issues, it is imperative to crack open the core and to reveal what thoughts and beliefs are truly driving the arguments.
Instead of simply reacting to what shines on the outside, we must dig deeper, ask questions, and truly seek to understand the inner gears and cogs. Out of respect and intellectual humility follows genuine conversation. Only with this deeper level analysis and personal connection can true understanding, empathy, and impact occur.
The analysis of the sphere’s fragility and complexity may also be applied to the larger context of the UN. Certainly the international system itself, while strong, is also fragile. This fragility presents a reminder that God is in control and Sovereign, even over the most powerful countries and diplomats. Each person is a precious and interconnected piece of the greater complex Design, molded in love by the ultimate Artist. Finally, at the core of the discussion lies solid Truth based in God Himself, and reaching the core must be our goal.
The spheres present the opportunity for a host of interpretations. And perhaps that is the beauty of it – just as the spheres are a microcosm of the UN and subsequently the world, even so the diverse interpretation of the spheres is a microcosm of the breadth and diversity of perspective that can be found underneath each person’s outer shell.
May we always seek to address the core – of issues, of the individual, of Truth, and of what truly matters.
Special thanks to Mr. Stefano Gennarini , J.D. of C-Fam for the tour and inspiration for this post.
Picture taken by Abigail Long.
- Scattergood, John. “Six Ways of Looking at a Pomodoro.” Trinity College Dublin, http://www.tcd.ie/artcollections/art-campus/pomodoro.php
- “Arnaldo Pomodoro ‘Sfera con Sfera’ bronze.” Trinity College Dublin, http://www.tcd.ie/artcollections/art-campus/pomodoro.php
- “Arnaldo Pomodoro.” Guggenheim Collection Online, https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/artist/Arnaldo-Pomodoro
- “Arnaldo Pomodoro Sphere No. 4 (Sfera no. 4).” Guggenheim Collection Online, https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/3487
- “Giant Fractured Sphere at the Vatican.” My Modern Met, 18 Apr. 2012, https://mymodernmet.com/arnaldo-pomodoro-sphere-within-a-sphere/