Chainsaw Sculpture Of Jesus Unveiled In Fort Gibson

Saturday, September 1st 2012, 3:57 pm
By: Dee Duren

An Oklahoma chainsaw artist unveiled a 12-foot tall sculpture of Jesus Saturday in Fort Gibson. The ceremony took place outside Artur Bookbinding at 100 North Jackson.

The piece, which was carved from a piece of white oak from a Stilwell ranch, was commissioned by bookbinder Zbigniew Niebieszczanski - also known as the Bible Repairman.

Cherokee artist Ben Sparks said the piece took about four months to complete. It portrays Christ reading from Hebrew scripture, he said.

"I absolutely loved doing it and wanted to do it for a long time," Sparks said Saturday before the unveiling. "I'm a very religious Christian, and my wife has been a missionary."

Sparks said most people will be surprised that the carving is very detailed and smooth, not the rough work typically seen in chainsaw art.

8/30/2012 Related Story: Oklahoman Restoring 400-Year-Old Bible, Another Carving Jesus Out Of Tree

Sparks, who has done chainsaw carving for 10 years, said it was challenging to "carve the face of God into something."

"When I think of the face of God and what someone else thinks can be two different things," he said.

The logistics of transporting and setting up the massive artwork were also challenging, but the work was revealed as scheduled during the annual Cherokee National Holiday.

Sparks, born and raised in the Tahlequah area, said his family came to Oklahoma in the 1800s with the Trail of Tears. He has won competitions at the Five Civilized Tribes Museum and has pieces on display from coast to cost, he said.

He is proud that no live trees are used in his sculpture.

"We don't take down new trees," he said. "We try to use reclaimed, dead trees."

Niebieszczanski is a world-famous bookbinder who immigrated to the U.S. and is currently working to restore a 400-year Bible.

Monks from the Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey Monastery in Lost City came to the unveiling ceremony to pray over the artwork.