Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Faces of Faith: The art of sculptor Ben Watts

Columbia, Miss. sculptor Ben Watts counts several faith-influenced statues within his body of work. With images such as William Carey accepting the calling to foreign missions and a battle-weary angel catching a moment of rest, Watts brings physical presence to the spiritual. His gift for depicting faces filled with emotion finds special impact in these inspirational pieces.

Watts shows the cobbler’s bench that Carey left behind when he prepared for his mission to India. The apron is leaving his hand as Carey Turns to the World, one foot raised in movement toward his callings. The tools rest in a box beneath the bench and an unfinished project sits on the bench.

Carey’s face is turned toward India as he acknowledges his destination, Bible in hand. The bronze statue stands on the campus of William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Miss., in front of the Sarah Ellen Gillespie Museum of Art.

Angel’s Song, an 18” high sculpture in water-based clay, offers the serenity of maternal embrace. Is the song by an angel or for an angel? Watts captures the peacefulness of a child held safe in loving arms in this elegant sculpture that could depict the Nativity.

In the eternal battle between good and evil, even warrior angels need a moment’s rest. In Peace on Earth, an angel pauses and experiences peace, if only for that moment. The 16” bronze shows the angel in full battle gear, ready to take up the fight again when summoned.  

Watts sculpted Thanksgiving during a Thanksgiving service. The source of gratitude stands, arms outstretched, in what Watts says could depict the crucifixion or the resurrection. The figure yields all, holding nothing back at this moment.

John Wesley, founder of Methodism, stands on the campus of Watts’ alma mater, Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss. Funded by alumni donations from the classes of 1964, 1965 and 1966 along with other Millsaps family, the statue stands just north of the library, overlooking the open area known as Millsaps Bowl. Wesley stands, book in hand, bags at his feet, as though giving a sermon or sharing a text.  

Originally appeared on 09/16/2013 at

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