New Waterworks statue stands tall

Published 12:04 am Thursday, June 6, 2024

SALISBURY — Now on display in the Cook Garden right next to the Waterworks Visual Arts Center is a bronze statue of Chief Powhatan, better known as Pocahontas’ father.

Waterworks Executive Director Anne Scott Clement said it first came about when she was talking with Ray Moose, an artist who lives in Mount Pleasant who also teaches at Waterworks and restores the art and history plaques around the city. 

She had asked him if he had any art pieces he would like to feature at the center and the result was of Chief Powhatan standing and staring triumphantly towards the sky.

“I knew how talented he was, but I never actually saw one of his sculptures in real life. When I saw this, I just said, ‘Oh, my gosh!’” Clement said. 

Moose said while in the military, he was stationed in Japan where he visited Buddhist gardens, Hiroshima, samurai castles and museums that eventually altered his outlook on reality.  

“I’m just a farm boy and I wasn’t consciously aware, I don’t think at the time of what was happening to me, but I went through some changes,” Moose said. 

Moose said Vivian Kesler was inspired to hire him to create the statue after she took a trip to Gwynn Island on the Chesapeake Bay, the same region Chief Powhatan lived over 400 years ago. 

According to Moose, much of the labor surrounding the statue was “preliminary work” that involved studying writings, drawings, taking a trip to Virginia, and personally speaking with Native Americans. 

“Images came to me while I was working and ideas,” Moose said.

Even at 73, Moose persevered through health issues over the past couple of years to complete the statue. Clement said it will be located next to Waterworks for one year. 

“I was really thankful that Anne Scott offered a place to put it and I feel good about the place it’s at. It feels really good to finish a project that big,” Moose said.

“At some point in time,” Moose said he will be giving a gallery talk to discuss the symbolism of the statue more in depth. His goal in constructing the statue is that he wanted something put out in the world that is true to the path that he set for himself when he began. 

“When you’re doing figurative work like this, your biggest hope is that in the end when it’s done and you’re sitting there looking at the statue, your hope is that it’s authentic, that you have touched on what your subject matter was, and gotten as close as you can. I hope I’ve done that,” Moose said.