Stefanie Rocknak's "Poe Returning to Boston"

Rocknak’s Poe Sculpture Set for Boston Square

April 25, 2012

Hartwick College Associate Professor of Philosophy Stefanie Rocknak's sculpture of Edgar Allen Poe, Poe Returning to Boston, has been chosen to adorn the Square that bears his name in the poet's home city of Boston, MA. Rocknak was selected from among 265 artists from across the world who applied for the competitive public art commission.

A five-member artist selection committee, empowered by Boston Art Commission guidelines, made the decision following a lengthy process involving intense public scrutiny of design proposals created by three competing finalists. The finalists were picked from a pool of 265 artists from 42 states and 13 countries.

"I propose to cast a life-size figure of Poe in bronze. Just off the train, the figure would be walking south towards his place of birth, where his mother and father once lived. Poe, with a trunk full of ideas-and worldwide success-is finally coming home," said Rocknak of the design. She noted recently that the piece is more "painterly" than much of her acclaimed sculpture.

"Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most influential writers ever born in the City of Boston. As a city proud of its rich history, I'm so pleased to see this wonderful tribute come to fruition.  The statue chosen for Poe Square is full of life and motion, and is sure to inspire residents and future writers alike for generations to come," said Mayor Tom Menino of Rocknak's design.

The plan calls for the statue of one of America's most influential writers to be installed in Edgar Allan Poe Square, a tree-lined, city-owned brick plaza at the intersection of Boylston Street and Charles Street South, just two blocks north of where Poe was born in 1809. Mayor Menino dedicated the location to Poe-and to his place in Boston's literary heritage-during bicentennial celebrations in 2009.

"The sense of Poe returning triumphant with creative ideas bursting forth from his suitcase is very appealing," according to project manager Jean Mineo. "The review committee, and public input, conveyed great excitement with the dynamic sense of movement, accessible style, and Poe's creative energy expressed in the proposal. There is also strong support for [Rocknak's] approachable, ground level statue that helps humanize Poe and place him in the context of this active neighborhood."

Poe, who at age 18 returned to Boston to publish his first book, later developed a notoriously contentious relationship with the city's literary elite, including with local editors who seized an opportunity to criticize him upon another return to his native city for a reading in 1845, the year Poe's most popular poem, The Raven, appeared. Poe's final works were also published in Boston prior to his mysterious death in Baltimore in 1849.

An award-winning member of the Sculptors Guild whose artwork has appeared in numerous publications and in more than 40 exhibitions including at the Smithsonian, Stefanie Rocknak is an associate professor of philosophy and the director of the Cognitive Science Program at Hartwick College, where she has taught since 2001. A graduate of Colby College in Waterville, Maine, with a B.A. in American Studies and Art History with a concentration in studio art, she holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Boston University. Her interests include the 18th-century Scottish philosopher David Hume (the subject of her forthcoming book), the philosophy of art, and the philosophy of the mind.

Describing her dual roles as artist and philosopher in Colby Magazine last November, Rocknak said: "Initially I kept them totally separate ... but making representational art is a manifestation of my philosophical belief that all art doesn't have to be conceptual." She said her figurative artwork, usually created in wood, is "cathartic" representing "a way to externalize certain emotions." 

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Hartwick College is a private liberal arts and sciences college of 1,500 students, located in Oneonta, NY, in the northern foothills of the Catskill Mountains. Hartwick's expansive curriculum emphasizes a uniquely experiential approach to the liberal arts. Through personalized teaching, collaborative research, a unique January Term, a wide range of internships, and vast study-abroad opportunities, Hartwick ensures that students are prepared for the world ahead. A Three-Year Bachelor's Degree Program and strong financial aid and scholarship offerings keep a Hartwick education affordable

Contact: Christopher Lott
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