By Dale Ann Deffer
The tall, thin man with a humble tone in his voice who is set to unveil his $4,000 statue of Jesus in the yard of a Fort Gibson Bookbinder this Saturday discovered his natural talent by accident.
Ben Sparks, 36, began his working career selling industrial steel, he explained last week reclining in an oversize chair in his hand-hewn wooden living room which he crafted. Around the room he has placed various statues of birds and eagles, while a wooden bear bids welcome outside. Sparks has never been educated at art school and is completely self taught.
Sparks was literally approached by the owner Artur Bookbinding to create the statue.
“Mr. (Zbigniew) Niebiesczanski followed me down the street one day and asked me to do the Jesus statue,” Sparks said.
Thus began the four-month project which will be on view for the public in Fort Gibson. Sparks has been carving his statues in the area selling at crafts fair and on Ebay for more than 10 years. He said he has sold to individuals in California, New York and Utah, and is interested in selling more to anyone who appreciates free standing original art from wood.
His natural talent is not something he boasts about, and it appears that he discovered it while doing what he loved which was building his home. Inside his living room is a giant tree trunk with clean branches which appears to be holding up the balcony. The eagle statue is placed at the tip of the stairs leading to the second floor which is open and visible. The visitor can almost imagine being in the forest, yet with walls.
Sparks speaks with an easy drawl about his art. He said he agreed that he will probably begin to start selling more aggressively on the internet.
“I get about 30 percent for my sculptures around here that I would pick up elsewhere,” he said. Sparks has sold nearly 1,000 items.
He works in various hard woods such as walnut and oak and coats the finished work in a clear plastic finish. A sculpture on view which he poses beside is called “Happy Herons” and will sell for approximately $800, he said.
“This is the depiction of a male and female bird melded together,” he said. “Most birds live in pairs.”
His goals are to “get more into museum sculpture” he said, comparing his work to a local artist of Cherokee descent, Willard Stone of Locust Grove.
Sparks can be reached at (918) 781-3471 for any inquiries or commissions.
The statue of Jesus is in the yard of Zbigniew T. Niebieszczanski, owner an d founder of Artur Bookbinder, 100 N. Jackson.