Gail Rothschild

Monument at Chesterwood

1996


Mixed media. 10 x 8 x 8 feet.
Created for Chesterwood, Stockbridge, MA With Stephen Furnstahl, AIA

Chesterwood was the home and studio of Daniel Chester French, the pre-eminent public sculptor of early 20th century America. With works such as the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, French helped define the American Monument. French’s architect for Chesterwood was Henry Bacon who began his career with the firm of McKim, Mead and White – practically synonymous with American Classicism.

French and Bacon were working at a time when there was much discussion of what a monument should be: how could it best instruct the public, how could it best represent the American past for new immigrants, and just which “worthy subjects” should it memorialize?

French and Bacon sited Chesterwood with a dramatic view of Monument Mountain. The mountain is named for the mound of stones that the Muh-he ka-ne-ok (the aboriginal inhabitants of Stockbridge) formed at its base.

…the tribe
built up a simple monument, a cone
Of small loose stones. Thenceforward all who passed,
…laid a stone
In silence on the pile. It stands there yet.

Monument Mountain, William Cullen Bryant

Perhaps in the mid-nineteenth century the monument still existed. But, according to the Massachusetts Archaeological Society it was “thrown down quite a number of years ago by some vandals, the stones scattered about, and an excavation made under the original monument, perhaps in the expectation of discovery of some hidden treasure.”

If the monument exists only in legend and in name, what of the people who made it, the Muh-he ka-ne-ok?

The answer can be seen on the map of Wisconsin where a tiny block of land is labeled “Stockbridge Indian Reservation”.

This piece is not a monument. It is a representation that brings together two different approaches to marking significant places. People punctuate the landscape with various gestures and for various reasons. Where culture and place intersect we create repositories for collective memory.

Monument at Chesterwood, 1996
Mixed media. 10 x 8 x 8 feet

Monument at Chesterwood, 1996
Mixed media. 10 x 8 x 8 feet

Monument at Chesterwood, 1996
Mixed media. 10 x 8 x 8 feet

Monument at Chesterwood, 1996
Mixed media. 10 x 8 x 8 feet

Monument at Chesterwood, 1996
Mixed media. 10 x 8 x 8 feet