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Jun 6, 2014 11:02 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Thirty-Foot-Tall 'Walking Girl' Statue Causing A Stir In Westhampton

Jun 11, 2014 9:56 AM

Ken Tedaldi is appalled, and he has no qualms about sharing why.

“It’s absolutely disgusting,” the Quogue resident said while enjoying lunch Tuesday at the Cafe at Malloy, the small diner located inside the terminal at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton. “It’s pitiful. It looks like cheap papier-mâché done by a first-grader.”

Alex Sganga of Westhampton Beach, who works at the Cafe at Malloy, said that when her fellow employees learned last week that the 30-foot-tall statue was being installed near the airport’s main entrance, most thought it was a practical joke.

“It was definitely a shock,” she said while standing behind the counter on Tuesday. “We got the photo, and we kind of thought they were kidding.”

But the aluminum statue, called “Walking Figure,” is no joke. It weighs close to 5,000 pounds. It took several months to construct. It was shipped almost 2,500 miles, from Arizona, via a flatbed truck. It was envisioned by Donald Baechler, an artist with a studio in New York City.

And it now has a permanent home inside the traffic circle at the airport’s main entrance.

Commissioned by cousins Gregg and Mitchell Rechler, the developers behind the new Hampton Business District at Gabreski Airport, “Walking Figure” is intended to reflect the types of businesses that will eventually lease space at the nine-building, 440,000-square-foot complex, which will be anchored by a three-story hotel.

“The sculpture is bold and imaginative, with a liveliness that mirrors the modern design elements and positive, open feel of the Hamptons Business District,” said developer Mitchell Rechler, managing partner of Rechler Equity, in a prepared statement.

The cousins, who broke ground on the business complex this past spring, inked a 40-year lease with Suffolk County in 2009 to develop the 55 acres near the airport’s entrance. The county owns the land.

When reached this week, Mr. Baechler explained that the Rechlers hired him to create a 30-foot-tall figure made from aluminum. The final product, which was constructed at a studio in Arizona over several months, is less than 6 feet wide and depicts a smiling girl in mid-stride.

“It’s a whole different scale relationship,” the artist said about his creation. “It’s a monumental scale rather than a human scale.”

The piece is based on sketches that Mr. Baechler drew in the late 1980s, he noted this week. There is no exact replica of this statue, though different versions based on the same sketches, including one that sits outside the IBM building in New York City and another cast in bronze, have been commissioned in the past, according to representatives of Mr. Baechler’s studio. Both of those creations, however, are considerably smaller in size: one is 10 feet tall, while the other measures 6 feet.

“This was such a unique opportunity,” Mr. Baechler added. “What I think is very effective about this work is the idea of being in motion. It’s about mobility and progress, to a certain extent.”

Both the artist and the Rechlers declined to say how much the piece cost.

Prior to being installed, some of those who first spotted the modern art piece—which some people are saying appears to have been constructed from aluminum foil—said they did not know what to think.

“At first, we thought it was scrap metal laying on the ground,” said Alice Chapman, an employee at Sheahan Publications located in the airport complex, laughing. “It really is a UFO, [a] spacey looking thing.” She added that the artwork has been a hot topic of discussion at her office over the past few days.

But not everyone is upset by the new, shiny giant.

Annica Penn could not help but laugh while pouring coffee and chatting with customers from behind the counter at the Hampton Coffee Company in Westhampton Beach on Friday morning. “How did you miss it?” she asked one customer who stopped in the shop. “It’s a giant, shiny statue!

“It’s pretty cool,” Ms. Penn continued, catching up those customers who do not normally drive along Old Riverhead Road during their commute. “I don’t know why it’s there, but it doesn’t look bad.”

Mr. Baechler supervised the installation of the figure on the traffic circle on Collins Way early last week. He noted in an email that he was at the site for two days, though the workers completing the installation did not require much in the way of assistance. They used a crane to lift the piece into place.

The metallic figure continues to be the subject of conversation among those heading into Westhampton Beach from Sunrise Highway, with a few saying they are concerned that the artwork could potentially distract pilots approaching Gabreski Airport.

Anthony Ceglio, who manages the county airport, said the statue was cleared by the Federal Aviation Administration prior to its installation. The traffic circle, he noted, is part of the airport property being leased by the Rechlers.

“While not related to aviation, the sculpture creates interest, which may be beneficial to an emerging industrial park on the East End of Long Island,” Mr. Ceglio wrote in the email last Thursday, June 5.

The piece is definitely being noticed by locals and visitors alike, many of whom have posted comments and pictures on social media sites over the past few days.

Modern art pieces, such as sculptures, paintings and photographs, are common features on properties owned or leased by the Rechlers, according to a press release issued this week by the development firm. Workers are now preparing to install artificial turf at the base of the statue and along the inside of the traffic circle in Westhampton.

“An ambitious project like the Hampton Business District called for art on a grand scale, and we found it in Baechler’s work,” said Gregg Rechler, the second managing partner of Rechler Equity and the cousin of Mitchell Rechler, in a prepared statement.

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Olive Foyl
By lucky and aware (44), Speonk on Jun 6, 14 11:41 AM
2 members liked this comment
looks horrible !!!
By tookatz (83), westhampton beach on Jun 6, 14 1:32 PM
I guess there is a shortage these days of giant yellow teddy bears wearing oversized headlamps.
By btdt (449), water mill on Jun 6, 14 1:46 PM
By bettyboo (38), Westhampton on Jun 6, 14 2:30 PM
very cool.
By thediner (11), east hampton on Jun 6, 14 2:37 PM
1 member liked this comment
Absolutely HIDEOUS!!!! This "thing" has no connection to our community, whatsoever! Another outsider coming in and thinking this is what's best; this is not a welcoming sight to our community. THIS is an eyesore. Why not choose something that represents the community??? Who decided on this???!!!
By cush870 (31), Westhampton Beach on Jun 6, 14 6:56 PM
2 members liked this comment
Wonder what they have in store for the condo project on the Shinnecock Canal?

Terrible public relations, by the way . . .
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jun 6, 14 7:05 PM
Should have put her in the field near Linda Scott's "Stargazer"
By loading... (599), quiogue on Jun 6, 14 7:17 PM
1 member liked this comment
As bad as Vereds legs,

Hideous take that crap down please
By They call me (2824), southampton on Jun 6, 14 9:17 PM
The Rechlers must be REAL mad for being held up so long. REVENGE???
What happened to sculptures of sailboats, fish, anchors etc. I guess this is "payback".......Big Time!!!
By dani (1), Remsenburg on Jun 6, 14 9:33 PM
1 member liked this comment
Some nice SW winds and it will be "lay down girl"
By Qguy (27), quogue on Jun 6, 14 10:12 PM
1 member liked this comment
the press needs to get local reporters (not out of towners) who know the area. the road is Old Riverhead-Westhampton Road (CR31), not Old Country Road. the obnoxious thing needs to go. try putting that thing up in WHB village and see the firestorm it will cause...or anywhere else for that matter smh :/
By Jaws (245), Amity Island on Jun 6, 14 11:45 PM
It is doing what art is supposed to do, create discussion.
By tenn tom (259), remsenburg on Jun 7, 14 7:54 AM
3 members liked this comment
If you barf on the sidewalk that will create discussion too.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Jun 9, 14 5:12 PM
The only discussion would be how sick you were.
By tenn tom (259), remsenburg on Jun 10, 14 7:59 AM
1 member liked this comment
I like it. Is its "unfinished" look a means of enabling each viewer to perceive his own conception, one wonders? It's definitely an asset to the community. Kudos to the Rechlers.

Too bad that it's not unique, though. There are identical copies of "Walking Figure" elsewhere.
By highhatsize (4213), East Quogue on Jun 7, 14 9:44 AM
2 members liked this comment
"Walking Girl" meet Stargazer, geez are you kidding me, you couldn't do better than that thing? Ugly as sin.
By ToniQ (9), Hampton Bays on Jun 7, 14 10:03 AM
Still not as disgusting and out of place as the eyesore in front of the Parrish Art Museum.
By Tommy Turbo (60), Deep River, CT on Jun 7, 14 10:49 AM
2 members liked this comment
Amen to that! Those so- called-sculptures are awful! At least you can tell what this is.
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on Jun 8, 14 3:47 PM

"Here's your sign" for the future, from the bottom of the article:

“An ambitious project like the Hampton Business District called for art on a grand scale and we found it in Baechler’s work,” said Gregg Rechler, the second managing partner of Rechler Equity and the cousin of Mitchell Rechler, in a prepared statement."

Here's your sign !!!
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jun 8, 14 6:22 AM
1 member liked this comment
Or possibly just the wanton rambling of an overzealous ego.
By Mr. Z (11814), North Sea on Jun 8, 14 7:52 AM
"What is quality?"

Robert Pirsig
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jun 8, 14 8:06 AM
1 member liked this comment
"Bad art is a great deal worse than no art at all"
Oscard Wilde.
By KevinLuss (356), SH on Jun 8, 14 7:02 AM
5 members liked this comment
It looks like something my kids made out of aluminum foil. To each, his own!
By fishcove (39), southampton on Jun 8, 14 8:30 AM
Its no "Walking Man"
By Apri1 (8), Southampton on Jun 8, 14 10:25 AM
A giant version of an aluminum foil package "creative" servers use to enclose doggie bag leftovers at some of the Hamptons' finest restaurants.
By VOS (1238), WHB on Jun 8, 14 4:07 PM
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And this thing is one of the ugliest, most awful pieces of crap I have ever seen. They couldn't plant a big beautiful tree there? It's so bad I can't even drive by it without getting angry.
By getalife (61), Southampton on Jun 9, 14 10:24 AM
1 member liked this comment
Based on the comments I'd say the Rechler's have been quite successful with their art installation. And you can be guarenteed that that statute will be a landmark for any businesses that open up there. "Just turn when you see the big aluminum girl"
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jun 9, 14 10:51 AM
1 member liked this comment
it really is awful so out of character for the area, just terrible
By Erin 27 E (1277), southampton on Jun 9, 14 11:29 AM
Erin - what is the "Character" of the neighborhood? Industrial buildings, an air base, planes, strip shopping centers?
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jun 9, 14 12:00 PM
That area has no character.
By tenn tom (259), remsenburg on Jun 10, 14 8:00 AM
I don't think the statue is quite finished, I think there will be an ice cream cone in her hand, then it will complete.
By Shock (48), on Jun 9, 14 12:18 PM
Well played Elise. I've actually shared your story on my own social media. I took a selfie for fun of me today in front of the statue ... The immediate response from a friend that lives 2000 miles away was,
"wait, don't you live in the the town where they spent 75 grand on prosecuting someone over a 6 foot ice cream cone. "
By Aspatuck Gardens (30), Westhampton Beach on Jun 9, 14 6:28 PM
2 members liked this comment
If that's art, then my 2nd grader is Picasso.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Jun 9, 14 5:17 PM
2 members liked this comment
Is it permanent? I have no issue with it as long as it will eventually rotate out and something else comes in. It's kinda amateurish looking.
By Open Book (11), EH on Jun 9, 14 5:46 PM
2 members liked this comment
just saying- http://www.papermag.com/uploaded_images/patti-img-thing.jpg
By Aspatuck Gardens (30), Westhampton Beach on Jun 9, 14 8:21 PM
2 members liked this comment
hahahahaha! :D
By Jaws (245), Amity Island on Jun 9, 14 10:52 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Shock (48), on Jun 9, 14 10:54 PM
Maybe an oversized aeronautical badge, a fighter replica, or maybe even an anchor, or a whaling ship.

Ever notice how the uglier something is, the more people fawn over it as "art"?

Sometimes society's furors reminds me of King Louis' anal fistula surgery, and all the people who had unnecessary surgery (as they had no symptoms), or bandaged their behinds. Sometimes "culture" is the oddest thing, when you've got to have the "latest thing"...
By Mr. Z (11814), North Sea on Jun 9, 14 11:24 PM
2 members liked this comment
You have taken the predictable course from large, ugly statue to King Louis' anal fistula surgery. Who didn't see that coming?
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Jun 10, 14 8:34 AM
1 member liked this comment
It took me ten years to realize that Stargazer was a deer. I actually thought it was a rooster, so who am I to judge? That said, Walking Girl looks like a giant silver cookie to me. I find it very funny.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Jun 10, 14 8:46 AM
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Jun 10, 14 8:47 AM
It already needs to be replaced
By Obserever (40), Southnampton on Jun 10, 14 5:58 PM
1 member liked this comment
It has accomplished what it was set forth to do. It has created a buzz, provided free publicity and a draw greater than any flame to a moth.

Like it or not, art or not, score one for the Rechler's and their industrial park.

By NTiger (543), Southampton on Jun 10, 14 7:10 PM
2 members liked this comment
By jgrayhurst (4), WESTHAMPTON on Jun 10, 14 11:14 PM
1 member liked this comment
What !!! The other mess is a DEER?????
By Tommy Turbo (60), Deep River, CT on Jun 11, 14 12:54 PM
1 member liked this comment
My daughter and I viewed it yesterday. She hated it. I loved it. Sure was great conversation on the way back home. Carol Combes
By Carol (109), East Quogue on Jun 14, 14 9:08 AM
Keep the scornful comments coming. Every great modernist--from Manet to Morley has had to endure them from an opinionated public taken out of their comfort zone.
Look closer--can't you see she's laughing at you?
By aging hipster (201), Southampton on Jun 15, 14 7:16 AM
2 members liked this comment
"Great modernist Manet" and "art on a grand scale" (Rechler), this is not IMO.

More like a frumpy bag lady shouting out "Come and get your mediocrity right here!"

What "art" will be going on the walls of the new four-story hotel smack dab against the street -- Keane "big eye" paintings from the 60's?

Lava lamps retro room decoration?

The Bag Lady of The Hamptons fits right in . . .
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jun 15, 14 7:29 AM
> "the new four-story hotel......"

What? Did those crafty Rechlers sneak yet another story onto their project?
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jun 15, 14 2:27 PM
Thanks. The hotel is to have three full stories of rooms, plus a pitched roof (which raised the height limit from 35' to 45' as I recall). With its location being so close to the road (not back on the site as originally sited), the visual effect of the mass and height to the ridge line will be startling IMO.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jun 15, 14 2:42 PM
Go to hamptonbusinessdistrict [dot] com and click on the Gallery tab. The hotel is in the middle of the first rendering IMO.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jun 15, 14 2:50 PM
I think it's a great publicity stunt by the developers .
I haven't seen that much interest in any other future development in the hampton with the exception of their other property (CPI).
I wonder howmany people visited the site since the article's publication .
By Urit (24), Quogue on Jun 19, 14 10:54 PM
... they don't need publicity, they seem to need tenants. Their proposed "Technology Park" has devolved to an industrial park; think Vet's Hwy. The only technology you will see in that place is the robotic soda machine that fast food joints use at the drive up window.
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Jun 20, 14 10:26 AM
i heard that they are not finished yet with the statue, Its actually going to be made to look like Anna Throne Holst, they have to reconfigure the nose just a tad longer.
By lennybrand (4), hampton bays on Jun 20, 14 12:18 PM
What a pathetic attempt at a joke
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jun 20, 14 1:14 PM
1 member liked this comment
Oh stop already... This is a piece of junk put up by some jerks who just want to mess with us for not giving them what they want... they will win in the end... so just smile and wrap some corn in the tin foil of walking lady and hope we never have to move to Garden City..
By Tommy Turbo (60), Deep River, CT on Jun 20, 14 5:47 PM
2 members liked this comment
what a piece of garbage this thing is, really cheapens the place up.

How about showing some respect and replacing it with a plane!
By local 84 (353), riverhead on May 29, 16 5:36 PM