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Alexis Smith, the Los Angeles bred artist, took art to the next level of classical fashion by taking up the biblical account regarding the serpent, which was in the Garden of Eden, and seemingly translated it into a classic artwork in the compound of San Diego College, which is a branch of the University of California. Dropily following a causeway outside the Geisel Library in the campus, the globally known artist formed a tile snake of 560 feet in length and 10 feet wide, which has a rounded backside. Its observant head, as well as flicking tongue point to the entrance of the library (Ollman).

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Since time immemorial, the snake has been seen as being elegant yet deadly, seductive although extremely dangerous, and it has always been considered as a slimy character. Ever from the time when it lured Eve into consuming a portion of the prohibited fruit, which was supposedly from the tree of knowledge, the serpent has been struck with the status of being a dreadful influence. Unfathomable, in combined memory, the serpent prowls as a sign of malevolence and, more so, the trouncing of innocence (Alexis Smith, Snake Path).

The Snake Path by Alexis Smith

The “Snake Path” artwork placed in a public setting skillfully manages instantaneously to be theoretically inspirational, functional, and accessible. It is impeccably incorporated with its location even though the location could utilize some aid itself and the piece work as a visual exhibition, in addition to being a nudge to intellectual inquisition.

The inclined winding path surrounds a miniature garden grown which is covered with an apple tree amongst other fruit trees, and it shelters a marbled bench, which has an imprinted excerpt claiming that ignorance is ecstasy. However, the many Eves and Adams who walk upon this exceptional “Snake Path” or even stop at the backyard or rather the bench knows better. The classical artwork appeals to people of all ages even though at this era of technology, the conventional insight endures to stir the students and also the new movement of seekers (Alexis Smith, Snake Path).

The snake symbolism brings out a biblical theme and insinuation of the tree of knowledge where actually knowledge is life and the serpentine composition appear to sprout to life through the terrain and nature of the college grounds. Near the tail of the Snake Path, there is a huge stonework book which bears an extract of John Milton’s classic poem called Paradise Lost: “And wilt thou not be loath to leave this Paradise, but shalt possess a Paradise within thee, happier far.”(Milton 108). The biblical or rather cultural context is too extended to the point where the snake path encloses a petite garden which implicates the Garden of Eden and further engravings found on the marbled bench reveals the pictorials of Eve and Adam. The social environment within which the piece is placed is mainly an intellectual one whereby the snake path operates as an associate to the campus library whose structural architecture assumes the outline of a contemporary geometric tree.

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Moreover, the manifestation of the campus library actually signifies that it is the knowledge tree since the library happens to be the chief holder of the campus’ information, records, and more so, books. In the school’s social setting together with the snake path bring some sort of intellectual divergence between knowledge and innocence. The placement of the Milton’s quote additionally encourages the perception of finding harmony inside oneself, which is remote to the Edenesque and idealistic parameters of the college and predominantly speaks straight to the students on the basis of venturing into the actual society/world, which possesses challenges ranging from intellectuality to sociality.

The artist had aesthetic goals in mind while coming up with the piece, whereby it catches a certain quantity of traveling within the library compound and scenery observation so as to gain the real deep look of its implication. In spite of it being a somewhat steep hill, the wander is charming, and an individual may still have the companionship of rabbits leaping from end to end in the green environment. In addition, the ending of the track and the crest of the hill provides a pleasurable sight of the University of California, San Diego campus which nature and classical scenery the student community together with the touring visitors cannot help other than appreciating (Ollman).

The piece of work done on the path to the campus library refers to the com­pound rela­tion­ship between culture and nature or, furthermore, in the campus con­text, which is between the landscape and knowl­edge. The pictorial of the snake, which shows it winding around a stem of a tree and then going further to a circle on a miniature tropical garden, directly or indirectly points some references to the cultural or rather biblical opposition between knowledge and innocence; this marks an appropriate symbolist course to the college’s major repos­i­tory of information and books. The con­ception of reaching to a sanc­tu­ary inside one­self and out­side the protected and idealistic restrictions of the campus speaks openly to the scholars on the brink of venturing onto the real world.

How incidentally the serpent artwork is designed to wind up the steepest loom up to the campus library, and therefore, Smith’s art work means that, apparently, knowledge is a wonderful trouble. Knowledge may present bliss within a location, as Milton guarantees, although it will certainly get you removed out of the heaven garden, which basically implies the unreceptive, cushy status of uninformed bliss.

The intended effect of the piece was to use the classical artwork in enhancing the intellectual and cultural life of the entire fraternity of University of California San Diego campus by the setting up of the conspicuously built snake path. However, the completion of the piece, which was during an electioneering period in 1992, made the artwork get a twisted political interest. Knowledge before the view of the existing administration by then was, in fact, a forbidden fruit and explicitly condemned the intellectual and cultural elite. The university by then was an oasis and less funded but nonetheless was a secure propagation ground for theories and ideas (Ollman).

Interestingly, the snake path will not work its concealed wonders on each student going into the campus library since the serpent tongue doesn’t guide to the entrance of the library. Therefore, some students might find it hard to comprehend the true meaning behind the piece since it leads to a dreary concrete raised ground which does not offer access to the knowledge center, which might be interpreted as the cheeky character of the serpent in the biblical context. Many religious and societal groups have raised concerns of the symbolism behind the artwork as many argue that the majority of the country has run from God and went on the hunt of knowledge and self, and more so, some have even mocked religion openly.


The first time I visited the San Diego campus library, I was actually scared of the scenery which consisted of weird sculptures and artworks, especially the Snake Path. I was forced to walk along the grass lawns as during my early church teachings, I was informed that snakes were enemies to human beings. The piece, therefore, disturbed me emotionally and underwent psychological torture as a result of seeing other students walk along the snake path peacefully. On the other hand, the piece to a great extent beautifies the campus scenery and gives it a touch of classical history. It is scenery worth visiting and feeling the ample learning atmosphere were knowledge is the only object sought after.

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