First I must say how happy I am to be here! And how grateful I am tohave had the chance to work with the college and with the class of 1957, and above all for the opportunity to get to know Robert Frost in a way I had never known him before.

When I was first approached to consider making this piece I had just finished an 8 year work on Eleanor Roosevelt, and was feeling burnt out and unwilling to put myself back into that kind of situation. But after some gentle persuasion and persistent prodding, by Alan Schechter, over a period of several years I came to the realization that I could not let such an exciting opportunity just pass me by. I think that the moment that I decided that this would be an exciting opportunity, and not just another sculpture of a dead white male, was the moment when I finally grasped the fact that to make a sculpture of Robert Frost I would need to work in Granite. I have always thought of him as granite. When I was young I somehow connected him with that big outcropping of rock in New Hampshire that resembled the head of a man. Then one day a friend from ITALY was visiting and we were talking about how I had never had the chance to work in stone, and how I regretted it and it suddenly occurred to me that here, right under my nose was the perfect opportunity! I was thrilled and somewhat amazed when my proposal to turn this project into a ĺ─˙learning experienceĺ─¨ for myself was greeted not with skepticism but with enthusiasm by the Class of ĺ─˛57 and by the College. .... But on second thought, why should it not be, in this place where everything is dedicated to the pursuit of learning. For them it probably seemed the most natural thing in the world!

The work in Italy, while exciting and interesting in its own right, was also nerve wracking and unpredictable. Something I would expect to be done in a few weeks would take months, others would be done so quickly that I would barely be able to keep up. And all the while I was learning, learning and learning. I learned how to make an enlargement with calipers and points I learned, somewhat, how to speak Italian. I learned what it was like to be an artist in a world where artists were respected and looked upon as a normal vital part of the community. Where sculpture was taken as an important part of your daily landscape ... like a tree or a building. I learned how to live alone for long stretches of time. I learned to cope with the difficulties of being a so called creative artist, having already created a work that was now being executed by someone elseĺ─˘s hand. And ... I learned about Robert Frost.

Of course I had read Frost as a child, and in college. But I never really thought about him in a serious way. After reading a couple of biographies and really listening to and reading his poetry I felt completely differently about his work. I realized that he was actually DOING what I had been trying all my life to do in my sculpture. He was taking a normal part of life, something ĺ─˙regularĺ─¨ and allowing you to see it in a new way, from a different point of view as if you had never thought of it that way before. This gave me a tremendous thrill. As did a quote from him that I discovered in the first chapter of the book by Richard Poirier ĺ─˙Robert Frost, The Work of Knowingĺ─¨

ĺ─˙Every single poem written regular is a symbol small or great of the way the will has to pitch into commitments deeper and deeper to a rounded conclusion and then be judged for whether any original intention it had has been strongly spent or weakly lost; be it in art, politics, school, church, business, love, or marriage - in a piece of work or in a career. Strongly spent is synonymous with kept.ĺ─¨

These words would come into my mind during the worst of the first winter, working in a freezing cold studio in Pietrasanta on my enlargement, when I was EXTREMELY tempted to allow it all to be ĺ─˙weakly lostĺ─¨. The original intention kept eluding my efforts and it was so seductive to think of just ĺ─˙letting it goĺ─¨. Nobody will ever know ... Certainly there was a lot of pressure from that direction. From the stone yard, eager to start their work on it; from the studio where I was working, eager to have their space back; and from my family not so eager to see the prospect of an open ended time away from home.

It was at moments like this that I most appreciated the presence of Alan Schechter in the project, with his constant support and steady voice, keeping everything on track and going smoothly. There were many times when I was at my wits end, ready to throw in the sponge, and he was always a source of reassurance and stability, not to mention enthusiasm and energy. And he made me realize that we would be able to pull it off, that I should not despair!

I would also like to give great thanks to President Tom Gerety for his tireless help in getting the project started. On several of the hottest days of July in 2001 he spent all day with me, carrying a 9 foot pole on his shoulder, walking the campus looking for just the right spot to place the sculpture. And any time that there was a little snag of any sort he would pull it all together and straighten it out.

Many things have changed and happened since then, but in every instance Amherst college has treated me in the most respectful and generous way imaginable. I must say that I have never in all my time of making public art had such a wonderful, understanding and patient group of people to work with. To work with Amherst and the Class of 1957 has given me a whole new view of how a group can work together to accomplish a project. And it has been wonderful to see how a Liberal Arts College really can stand up for its implicit values and show respect and understanding for those things that it preaches!

I would also like to thank: President Tony Marx for carrying on where Tom Gerety left off. And the wonderfully helpful people in his office. Ted Kambour, president of the Class of ĺ─˛57 who I know has been silently involved in the project since the very beginning.

Peter Shea, for all his abilities to sort out the confusions that I would get into periodically, and for his great patience. And to his assistant, MaureenWaskiewicz as well. Jim Brassord for his willingness to consider all alternatives and to meet me whenever my crazy schedule would allow. And to Joanne Gustafson, his assistant who graciously took care of everything.

Mark Tassinari who never complained about the many emails that I sent him, every time there was another change in plans from Italy. And all the kind and helpful members of the Class of 1957 whose names I do not remember, because I am very bad at that, but who I have been much aware of and very grateful to.

Penelope Jencks

June 2, 2007