HALFMOON, N.Y. — A newly dedicated statue in New York City’s Central Park commemorating the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment has direct ties to a resident of the town.
Artist and sculptor Patrick Pigott, of Halfmoon, worked on the project for two years with its creator, sculptor Meredith Bergmann.
The 14-foot-tall bronze statue titled Women’s Rights Pioneers was dedicated at a ceremony held in New York’s Central Park Aug. 26, the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution that gave women the right to vote.
The work depicts, in delicate detail, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, three giants of the women’s rights movement. The three are posed around a table discussing strategy for advancing the movement.
The statue now in place on the park’s Literary Row is the first such work in the park depicting real women. The effort to get the approvals necessary for the placement required seven years of work by the all-volunteer group Monumental Women. It also necessitated the lifting of a 70-year moratorium on new statues for the Park.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the unveiling ceremony was limited to 70 invited guests. In her remarks at the unveiling Monumental Women’s Board of Directors’ President Pam Elam noted the difficulty of trying to give a statue to the city.
“It’s not easy to donate a work of art to the City of New York,” she said. “It’s a long, bumpy rollercoaster ride. In New York City’s public spaces there were 150 statues; only five were women. Now there are six.”
Pigott, who submitted his own entry to the statue design competition three years ago, joined that ride in a most serendipitous way. While attending a lecture on the history of monuments in the City, Bergmann, who was one of four finalists for the winning design at the time, took the seat next to him.
“This wonderful woman sat down next to me and I said I wonder if there are any sculptors here and she said yes, that she was one,” Pigott said last week. “I recognized her name as being one of the four finalists. She told me she had come to recruit people and I gave her my email address.”
Afterwards, Pigott sent Bergmann an email saying he loved her design, wished her well, and offered to help if needed. Bergmann’s design won the competition and she later enlisted him to assist her.
Pigott, 58, is a native of the metro Detroit, MI area who went to graduate school in New York City where his program of study focused on illustration. After, college he began working in New York City and found a steady job creating small three-dimensional movie-related products for a major company. When he and his wife began a family they moved first to Garrison, NY, and later to Halfmoon where his wife has family.
Pigott’s largest sculpting work, prior to the recent project, was limited to a seven-foot-tall statue of Col. Albert Pawling, the first mayor of Troy, which he completed for the city in 2014.
“I loved the experience, loved the people I was working with, and loved working large and that led me to try [to] explore other directions and get more work like that,” he said. “When the competition was announced by Monumental Women I had to enter because I thought it was such an important project.”
After being contracted to help Bergmann with her design, Pigott found himself working first on a one third size model of the statue. After sculpting the model’s props; two chairs, a table, the women’s handbags, several books, and many costume details, he found himself doing the same on the full-sized statue and much more.
“Those things carried through on the full size but I also ended up working on everything; putting clay on things, refining things, a lot of detailing on the costumes. Essentially the same process but full size,” he said.
Pigott described Bergmann as being almost like a film director in her work process, focusing on the story that was being told; the performance of the characters, the interaction between the women, their gestures, how they’re looking at one another, and what they are supposed to express.
As an example, Pigott said he would use his grasp of anatomical sculpting gained from years of product work for something like a set of hands for the statue. When he finished Bergmann would come in and finish them off by giving the pair of hands a more neoclassical styling.
“She had a vision of how she wanted the figures to interact with gestures. She wanted to get across that these three women were working together,” he said. “Meredith did the poetry and she had me do the prose. It was a nice mix of our skills.”
In discussing some of the other pieces of the statue he worked on Pigott said he sculpted the three books seen underneath Stanton’s chair, Anthony’s alligator handbag which she carried with her everywhere, the pamphlets inside it, the victory wreath design on Sojourner Truth’s jacket, and a cameo broach of Minerva, the goddess of wisdom and knowledge which he placed on Stanton's figure.
The ceremony in Central Park was originally planned as a huge event but even with its limitations due to the pandemic, the unveiling was carried live on NBC’s Today Show.
“The weather was perfect, the light was perfect and Mrs. (Hillary Rodham) Clinton gave an inspirational speech that covered the highlights of the women’s movement showing how it tied into voting rights that was perfectly on point. It was a magical beautiful day.”
Pigott described the entire experience of working on such a prominent piece of art as a wonderful journey.
“I was honored and privileged to be part of it,” he said. “It was the first project I felt like I was able to bring everything I’d learned in my life and apply it to.”