Jesus on the Cross
One of the most significant self-taught artists in the history of the American South, Ulysses Davis made his living as a barber, one of the few professions open to African Americans in the 1950s. For this sculpture, the largest Davis made, he insisted on a piece of cedar fine enough to embody Jesus. He abstracted the anatomical forms to avoid any mimicry that presumed to depict God. With wood chisel and knives, Davis carved as if performing a penance, enumerating and empathizing with Christ’s sufferings as he worked. He spent almost ten hours carving the crown alone, drilling holes into which he inserted thorns made from toothpick ends.