[6/3/21 EROICA, INTO THE AIR (2001) by Dexter Benedict, owner and operator of Fire Works Foundry in Penn Yan, New York. Except where indicated, photos by David Kramer]
Recently, at Meridian Centre off Winton Road, in the center of a technology office park, I noticed a sculpture of a youthful woman, robed and windswept, standing high on an unadorned stainless steel pedestal on a brick base, lifting a polished stainless steel falcon into the air. I wondered what the monumental sculpture represented or symbolized, but found no title, artist’s name, date or explanatory plaque.
With so few hints as to its provenance, google searches returned no images nor direct information.
My friend Elizabeth works in Building 400, and I asked if she knew anything on the background of the sculpture. Although Liz has passed the sculpture thousands of times, by coincidence, just two days earlier, Liz literally had a similar thought as mine: what is the piece meant to mean? But, like me, she found no clues on the statue itself. Both of us intrigued, Liz contacted Anne Marie Radell, Director of Commercial Properties at Spall Management Corp who manage Meridian Centre.
No one had ever asked Anne Marie about the installation, but after searching old files, she found an artist’s statement by Dexter Bendedict.
So we had the title, EROICA, INTO THE AIR, incorporating the heroic classical music of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E♭ major, Op. 55. In the sculpture, I do and do not hear the Third Symphony (listening as I type).
Certainly, in the releasing of the falcon into open sky — into the air — I feel Beethoven’s soaring paean to the limitlessness of imagination. Yet, the relatively modest scale on the installation, not dominating its space within the grassy circle or surrounding buildings, does not quite match Beethoven’s monumental thrust.
Benedict is very deliberative in his choice of themes and subjects. Eroica is set within a nexus of high technology activity associated with flux and ceaseless change. Fundamentally, by endowing or casting the sculpture with timeless or classical themes — invoking canonical Beethoven brings us back to the birth of Romanticism — Benedict seeks to blend in or connect the modern with its past.
The figure of the woman in an ancient looking garment is not contemporary. While the statement mentions no specific Greek myth, the imagery resonates with the mythic past. Falconry itself is a practice more associated with antiquity than the present. At the same time, Bendedict asks us to imagine that the garb could be clothes worn in some distant future world. In this sense, Benedict is not making a sharp distinction between a frozen past and a future-to-be. As he says, the intent is to link contemporary structures with tradition.
When reflecting upon the date of the statement, 2001 — which today feels like the infancy of digital communications technology — I considered how different is the work environment within the office park now, and how different it will be in twenty more years. Yet, the young woman releasing the falcon — a symbol or image of the soaring power of the human imagination — will not change and she will always be young, even as she looks skyward to the future.¹
Just as I finished taking the pictures, a car stopped, and a woman, with her husband driving, asked if I had any ideas about the significance of the statue.
The Weiler’s from Rush are patients in an allergy office that moved its operation from the city to Meridian during the pandemic. Mrs. Weiler, in her words, became obsessed with the mystery of the sculpture. She thought the woman might be Hiawatha or another figure in Native American iconography, but was not sure. To satiate her curiosity, Mrs. Weiler inquired of the allergy office personnel, other patients and people in the complex and even the Brighton Town Clerk, to no avail. Like me before I got the artist’s statement, if she had tried, Mrs. Weiler probably found no images or direct information on the internet. As she said, she was left with nothing . . . except now me.
Mrs. Weiler, hope you correctly wrote down talkerofthetown.com and have seen the photos.
There may be another, inadvertent, message in EROICA, INTO THE AIR. In our frenzied modern world of high tech and commerce, how many people, rushing to their offices while fixated on their phones, have stopped to admire or reflect upon the art in their midst?
¹ Noting Benedict’s use of classical antiquity, art historian Professor Andrew Weinstein writes:
Why on earth is there no label giving credit where credit is due? This Dexter Benedict is clearly a talented sculptor — I particularly admire that he created a figure and bird that read clearly and attractively from all angles, to judge from your photos. The piece looks good, and it has a clear set of intentions behind it. But it’s odd, I think, that he (or really the park designers who chose to commission him) references classical antiquity and the conservative tradition of the human figure in sculpture for a technology office park.
Reader Marjorie Searl, Research Curator at Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, alerted me that Benedict’s TRILOGY OF TIME (2002) — dedicated to Skip Frame, MD ’49 — is located outside the main entrance to the University of Rochester’s School of Medicine and Dentistry. Here, the viewer is provided with artist, title, and background information.