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A bust of Robert H. Jackson will soon find a home in the United States Supreme Court.
The bust was created by Dexter Benedict, a sculptor who resides in Penn Yann, who is also responsible for the statue of Robert H. Jackson located at the Samuel G. Love Elementary School in Jamestown. Benedict utilized the mold from the original statue to create the new bust. The original statue, which Benedict created after winning a juried competition, was dedicated by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in 1996.
According to Greg Peterson, one of the founders of the Robert H. Jackson Center and a current board member, the son and daughter of Jackson, as well as other family members, were present for the dedication, and they acknowledged the statue’s likeness to their father, which is one of the reasons why Benedict was asked to make the bust.
“What I’ve found most fascinating is that the family members have found favor with it, and they would have much greater knowledge of the likeness portrayed than anyone – if they do, then we should as well,” said Peterson.
When Peterson confirmed that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. had agreed to speak at the Jackson center, he presented to the Supreme Court the possibility of the Jackson Center commissioning and donating a bust sculpted by Benedict to be given to Roberts for the benefit of the United States Supreme Court. The goal, said Peterson, was to have a bust of Jackson permanently memorialized in the United States Supreme Court,
“I think it’s a huge accomplishment and a real tribute to the legacy of Robert H. Jackson that the U.S. Supreme Court is willing to accept it, because they do not have busts of every Supreme Court Justice,” said Peterson. “Here’s an individual who was raised, worked and lived in Chautauqua County, and to have his likeness be permanently ensconced in the United States Supreme Court is a real tribute to him and everything he means. It is also a real sense of pride for everybody from Chautauqua County.”
Benedict, who was raised near Oswego, completed an undergraduate degree in art in Kansas before finishing a master’s in sculpture at University of North Carolina at Greensboro and ultimately moving back to Penn Yann. But, Benedict didn’t start out studying sculpture. He started a graduate program in painting and was asked by an advisor to take a course outside the painting discipline, which he did, and ended up getting so interested that he quit painting to go full-time into sculpture.
“There are different means of making sculpture, but I guess you’d call me a modeler who works with clay,” said Benedict. “I take the likeness of someone who can sit for a portrait, or in the case of Justice Jackson, I worked from photographs. Then I develop the full-size piece in clay and make plaster molds in which I cast a thin wax. Everything you want it to be is developed in the wax. You put it into a kiln so all the wax melts out and then molten bronze is poured in. It’s called the lost wax process.”
Because Benedict had created the statue of Jackson that resides in Jamestown, the Jackson Center contacted him to see if he still had the mold to make a bust, and fortunately Benedict saves the heads of all the statues he sculpts. Therefore the bust should be a very close replica of the statue in Jamestown, he said.
“I’m very pleased with it,” said Benedict. “This will be my first piece at the Supreme Court, and I’m excited. This is a wonderful opportunity as a sculptor to have a piece installed at the Supreme Court. It’s a great pleasure and an honor to be doing a portrait bust of Justice Jackson, who was an outstanding figure.”
For more information visit roberthjackson.org or dexterbenedictsculptor.com.