A Universal Message
Nineteen years ago, this week, the site was selected for the signature sculpture of the Lower Falls Gorge area. During the first week of January, 2001, Adriana Slutzky, the sculptor, visited the Lower Falls Park to choose the ideal spot for her sculpture, The Seat of Forgetting and Remembering.
Frederico Construction, the company that redid the Lower Falls Park, dug the 2.5-foot deep holes for the four monoliths that are featured in the sculpture in late March, when the ground was no longer frozen. Slutzky and her husband, Jack, were on the site every day from April through mid-June to complete the sculpture in time for the June 15, 2001 ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Maplewood Rose Festival.
The sculpture consists of 12.5-foot high monoliths, representing the four corners of the World and containing plaster casts of 600 faces and hands from people of all ages, especially children.
In the center of the sculpture is a black granite resting place with the title, The Seat of Forgetting and Remembering, engraved into it. The sculpture invites visitors to sit on the granite and to contemplate the images of the people whose identities were forever included in this community art work. It is a message to celebrate peace and diversity–that we are more the same than different.
What is the universal theme? It is meant to represent the diverse communities from both sides of the Genesee River, which should not let the river divide them. The images of faces and hands were chosen because they are the prime elements humans use to communicate worldwide. This symbolism was especially poignant because Adriana was a teacher at the School for the Deaf when the monument was completed.
But they were also chosen because, when we take away the things we use to judge people, such as hair and skin color, and see only faces and hands, it leaves visitors with the realization of how much we have in common. People, whose faces are on the sculpture, had trouble locating their own images because the faces looked so similar.
The art work is meant to teach everyone to forget how we are different and to remember how similar we really are. Adriana feels that “It was meant to be there. It was what I was meant to do.” She still today mentions the assistance she and Jack received from the Kodak Hawkeye Plant, RG&E, Bob Stevenson, and many others. The Slutzkys devoted many hours to make this community landmark. After it was unveiled, Adriana wrote to the School for the Deaf, who sponsored the grant, that it was “well worth the sacrifice and hoped that it may make a difference in the way someone sees the world and his/her place in it.”
The message of the sculpture is just as significant today, perhaps even more, as it was 16 years ago. Adriana modestly says, “It was not done to get publicity, but to give back to the City and its people.” It remains a cultural image for the Lower Falls Gorge and a source of pride for the City’s nearby neighborhoods.
[Note: If you know anyone who worked on the preparation of the plaster casts or whose face is on the sculpture, please ask them to contact the Lower Falls Foundation. We would love to have them share their thoughts about the project sixteen years later.]