By Alyssa Schnugg
For five years, John Steele Davis’ concrete sculpture in the shape of a centaur has been the topic of a bit of controversy for Water Valley. Some residents loved the 1,000-pound creation while others were offended by its mythological beginnings.
Now, the statue has a new home where it is most welcome – in front of Local Color on North Lamar Boulevard where the centaur stands close to the road, gazing almost lovingly at the storefront he now “guards.”
Davis, normally a woodworker known for his unique style of wood chairs, created the concrete statue in 2014.
“There were about four or five of us (artists) in Water Valley who decided to make sculptures from concrete around that time,” he said. “(Artist) John Forsyth and I were having a few drinks one day. He had just started a concrete sculpture of a fertility goddess and I couldn’t let him get ahead of me. I wanted to do something mythological.”
The centaur, once complete, was placed in front of Rasputan’s Sandwich Shop. His arrival drew a variety of reactions.
“Some people liked taking their picture standing next to him and people would comment on Facebook that they really like him,” Davis said. “But some were disturbed by it. One guy told people he would have it removed if it was the last thing he did.”
Recently, Davis received a call out of the blue from Larry Sprouse, president of Valley Lumber and Hardware, who offered to move the centaur for free.
“He told me he’d move it anywhere I wanted,” Davis said.
Davis contacted his friend, Willie Wallace, owner of Local Color, who was happy to give the centaur a new home.
“It’s a very interesting piece,” Wallace said Wednesday.
Davis, originally from Bruce, lived in Lafayette County for a little more than a decade before moving to Water Valley 13 years ago. Recently, he’s moved back to Lafayette County where he has spent much of his time working on his new house.
“I’m hoping to get back into making sculptures soon,” he said. “I really enjoy it.”
The centaur was not Davis’ only concrete creation. He also stirred up some controversy in 2015 when he created a large “Blue Devil,” in honor of Water Valley High School’s football team. However, despite the reference to the school’s mascot, some residents were not happy with the big devil being on display in downtown Water Valley. The statue was stolen, and later returned damaged to the police department. The statue is now in an art gallery in North Carolina, close to the home of Duke University’s Blue Devils.
Davis also had a large painting of Water Valley street preacher Jimmy Lee Moore stolen recently, which has not been returned. The two incidents led to Davis’ decision to move the centaur.
“The centaur was my first concrete sculpture and really the only one I had left close to me and I was afraid something would happen to it. So when Larry offered to move it, I figured it was a win-win situation,” Davis said. “I’m just happy it has a good home now where it’s appreciated.”