“I refer to him as ‘the man going downhill, going uphill,'”‘ says A.E. “Ted” Aub, professor of art, speaking of the statue of William Smith that he created as a monument for the William Smith Centennial.
Aub explains: “Smith, depicted in the twilight of his life, is shown walking an inclined surface that is intended to be suggestive of Smith Hill. The hill is also a metaphor representing life’s challenges.”
The statue is a gift from the men of the Hobart and William Smith Colleges Board of Trustees to the women of William Smith College. The 6-foot, life-size statue of the College’s founder will be dedicated this weekend on the Hill, an area traditionally kept as residences for William Smith College women. The dedication will be held at 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 7 on the Hill.
Aub, who also created the Elizabeth Blackwell statue that sits in the Quad, only had about five pictures of William Smith to work with. “He was a modest man who wouldn’t even agree to have his portrait painted for his own College,” Aub explains.
As for the statue’s position, Aub says that it’s an interpretation of William Smith’s life as a businessman and nurseryman. In the statue, William Smith is wearing a suit and holds a tree branch as a walking stick. While Aub had originally intended for William Smith to hold seeds in the other hand, he decided to give him a tree instead. “He’s holding a little sapling and he’s about to plant the tree on Smith Hill.”
The location of the statue was carefully chosen. “I made a full-scale silhouette and then we placed it around campus,” Aub explains. “Finally, for symbolic reasons, we decided on the site near Hirshson, in a grove of trees, on the hill that is still considered exclusive William Smith territory.”
The process of creating the final sculpture is complex and time-consuming. Aub began by creating a small clay “concept model” that he completed in a few days. Last December, he sculpted a two-foot model of William Smith. In August, Aub began working on the full-scale statue in the Elliott Studio Arts Building.
In order to create a realistic model, Aub started with a “nude study,” he explains. “That way, when it came to sculpting the clothed figure, it would appear more convincing.” By taking coils of clay and draping them over the figure, Aub was able to fill and work it in.
A foundry located in Newburgh, N.Y., spent about a month on mechanically enlarging the sculpture in clay and then transported it back to Geneva so Aub was able to complete the final sculpting on the full-scale clay model. Following that, the sculpture returned to Newburgh for molding that produced a wax copy. Aub touched up the wax surfaces at the foundry prior to the figure being cast in bronze.
Aub hopes his representation of William Smith will remind students who the founder of William Smith College was and what he stood for. “He’s an elderly man, but he’s still active, still moving. I think his vitality at an advanced age sends an important message of eternal optimism, including the essential belief in the importance of educating not just men but women, as part of any viable future.”