- Associated Press - Sunday, March 1, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Under the creative hands of an American Indian artist, tree branches are transformed into one of the most powerful symbols of Christianity.

Don Narcomey, of Edmond, creates crucifixes - representations of Christ on the cross that adorn the emergency rooms of St. Anthony Hospital facilities across the state, including the St. Anthony Healthplex North, which opens its doors to patients on Monday.

Some of Narcomey’s creations feature a Christ figure, often called corpus (Latin for body), whittled from a T-shaped or Y-shaped branch of local cedar, blackjack oak or sycamore wood. The crosses bearing these figures may be carved from osage orange wood, boxwood or elm.

No two are the same, and yet the religious art is meant to convey one life-affirming message to the hurting: There is hope.

“I think about them, where they are going to go and that the people who see them may draw some strength from them,” Narcomey said of the crucifixes.

“I want them all to look inspirational and to be inspirational. I want people to know that things are going to transcend, that they are going to get better.”

St. Anthony officials said Narcomey has created 48 crucifixes in all for the hospital centers. That total includes a dozen he crafted recently for the new northwest Oklahoma City health center at 13401 N Western.

Sandra Payne, spokeswoman for St. Anthony Hospital, said the crucifixes were chosen because they fit the mission of the Catholic-affiliated medical centers. The sacred images are perhaps most notable in Catholicism.

“We wanted something that would reflect our mission but also add a unique art element,” she said.

Payne said the hospital also liked Narcomey’s use of natural materials for the art pieces, The Oklahoman (https://bit.ly/1BiAb2a ) reports.

Narcomey, a member of the Seminole Tribe of Oklahoma, said he earned a college degree in painting but eventually felt compelled to work with clay, wood and metal.

The artist said he found the wood he used for the crucifixes most often as he searched in woodsy areas across the state. He said occasionally, the wood came from other places outside the state and sometimes, the wood came from an unconventional source like torn out boxwood shrubbery from a residence.

He said he looks for branches in certain shapes that make it easier for him to carve out a representation of Christ. He said the shape of the branches determined much about the unique shape of each Christ figure. For instance, one figure might strike a more victorious pose while another may have a bowed head.

Narcomey said he spent between 35 and 40 hours creating each crucifix.

He said some types of wood allowed him to carve more definition into a crucifix and he enjoyed taking the time to do just that.

The artist said the head of the Christ figures are adorned with a crown of thorns made of old copper telephone wire.

Each crucifix is displayed in a lighted, custom built niche in the hospitals.

The Rev. Bill Pruett, pastor of St. James the Greater Catholic Church, 4201 S McKinley, said the crucifix is a powerful symbol of Christianity that likely brings much comfort to people in a hospital setting.

“It says that God suffers with us. It says you are not by yourself, you are not alone. He is here with you,” Pruett said.

“The crucifix is saying that the compassion of God is never exhausted.”

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Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com

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