CANANDAIGUA — If you need a reminder of the history tied to the land Canandaigua’s pioneers chose to settle upon, look no further than the nearly 2,000-pound, 7-foot-tall bronze sculpture under wraps at the corner of Routes 332 and 5 and 20.
On Monday, the Seneca Family Statue, by artist Wayne Williams of Arcadia, will be unveiled at 10 a.m.
Williams said the project has special meaning for him.
"I wanted to do something for the people from which this land was taken," said Williams, a long-time former Finger Lakes Community College art professor and well-known sculpture artist in the region.
The city is celebrating its 100th anniversary — although the town itself is much older — and for Williams, it's a time to see the history in its truest light. Canandaigua was built on the site of a Seneca Iroquois village, and the name means “the chosen spot," which also happens to be the city’s slogan.
"I've always had a soft spot for the way the native population was treated,” he said. “Maybe this is my vindication."
Every year on Nov. 11, Canandaigua celebrates the anniversary of the Treaty of Canandaigua, which was signed by George Washington and negotiated by Timothy Pickering to issue a state of peace and friendship and to divide lands between the United States and the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. The signing took place on Nov. 11, 1794.
The treaty's celebration is typically held with a parade and gathering at the Ontario County Courthouse. Added this year will be the unveiling of Williams' statue, which depicts a family from the Seneca nation — father, mother, son and daughter.
The Seneca Nation was the largest of the six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy — also known as the Haudenosaunee — which includes the Cayuga, Mohawk, Tuscarora, Oneida, Seneca and Onondaga nations. The Senecas once controlled half of New York state — and beyond — said G. Peter Jemison, the historic site manager of Ganondagan State Historic Site in Victor.
"We occupied and used territory all the way to the Mississippi and Ohio rivers," he said.
The Senecas also had a democratic government that predated the United States, Jemison said, and women’s rights were also a large part of their culture. They took roles in choosing or even challenging the chiefs and leaders of the tribe, he said.
Williams put in countless hours of study to add realism to his sculpture.
"It's like building a house," said Williams. "If the frame isn't right, the rest will be off."
Williams didn't want to overlook any detail about the Senecas. From the type of bow in the father's hand, to the braid in the mother's hair — everything had to be accurate.
Crafting a bronze sculpture is a labor-intensive process. Williams started with a full-size clay mold, which took him three months to complete — and his work had only begun. Next, the clay mold was cut into 51 pieces and covered with a plaster coating in order to take the shape of the clay mold; then the plaster was separated from the clay, giving the pieces their hollow shape, because bronze sculptures need to be hollow. Otherwise, Williams said, they'd be too expensive and too heavy.
Once the plaster pieces were separated, they were given a wax coating, which made them ready for the bronze. After being cast in bronze, all 51 pieces were ready to be welded.
Even for an experienced sculptor, it was a daunting task.
"When you start it, you look at everything, and you almost think it's impossible," said Williams. "Then you look back, and it's like wow, it's physically and metaphorically heavy. It's tricky."
The statue took a year to put together.
The idea for the sculpture dates back to 1989, but it wasn’t until just a few years ago that a group began raising funds to make the statue a reality.
Three names stand out in the fundraising effort: Peter Mulvaney, Lloyd Lill and Dorothy Mariner. Lill and Mulvaney did the fundraising, and Mariner gave the funds.
With a $130,000 budget, creating the statue was no easy task.
"There's not many times a community puts a statue in place," said Judi Cermak, president of the Ontario County Arts Council. "When you see art in a community, you know the community is healthy."
If you go ...
WHAT Unveiling of Seneca statue by Arcadia artist and former FLCC professor Wayne Williams
WHEN: 10 a.m. Monday, Nov. 11
WHERE: Corner of Routes 5 and 20 and Route 332, Canandaigua
DETAILS: Unveiling of statue will be followed by a closing reception in the Williams-Insalaco Gallery 34 on the campus of Finger Lakes Community College, 3325 Marvin Sands Drive, Hopewell, where the exhibit “Seneca Family Sculpture: History and Process” has chronicled Williams’ work