Model of Prayer: Sculptor Remembers Creating Mahler Prayer Statue

Prayer Statue

Next to the Mahler Student Center on the DBU campus, a bronze sculpture depicts a man kneeling at a chair, bent over an open Bible, his head cradled in his hand as he fervently petitions God. The statue, known as "A Call to Prayer," was dedicated in honor of Dr. Gary Cook, current DBU Chancellor who served as DBU President from 1988-2016, in honor of his 25th year as President.

Be it a prayer for guidance, for peace, or for healing; whichever his petitions may be, the man in the sculpture inspires the viewer with a sacred moment captured by Texas-based artist Bridgette Mongeon.

"I don't know how DBU found me, but they did in 2012," Bridgette remembers. "They were trying to honor Dr. Cook, and they wanted to represent the earnestness of praying over the campus and its students. Why did I take it on? Well... it's prayer. I'm all about prayer. When they said it was going to be a sculpture about prayer, I got excited."

Bridgette has been an artist, in her words, ever since she could pick up a crayon. Her foray into sculpture work started with simple sand sculpting on the beach one day. She realized she had to move on to clay somehow. "When I did, I knew that I had come home."

More current projects Bridgette has accomplished from her home studio in Houston include a statue of Eve from Genesis, Penny Marshall, and soon-to-be completed Booker T. Washington for the Booker T. Washington High School.

Yet DBU's praying man holds a special place in Bridgette's career and heart; especially as its subject matter seems more pertinent at this time than ever before in its eight years of standing.

Bridgette documented the artistic process in full on a personal blog.

"Not a lot of artists do them," Bridgette said, referring to the blog. "It gives people who are watching some excitement for what's to come, and insight to the creative and inspirational process of what I do, like they're watching over my shoulder in my studio."

Bridgette Mongeon

While extensive and full of steps—from concept sketches, to cast-making, to the foundry—no part of the process was inherently challenging to Bridgette. Rather, inspiration flowed naturally.

"It just feeds itself," Bridgette said. "I take one step, and I know what the next step is going to be."

The most profound and pivotal part of the entire process ended up being the most seemingly-nondescript prop in the scene, which provided the most unexpected source of inspiration: the rocking chair, which is an exact replica of Dr. Gary Cook's own chair over which he did much of his kneeling, praying, and seeking God on behalf of DBU through his many years serving as President.

"I fell in love with that chair," Bridgette said. "I realized it had its own personality, and became another character in the scene. It's a replica of Dr. Cook's chair; the energy that went into the sculpture reflected all the parts of Dr. Cook's journey that chair represented."

Bridgette carefully took measurements and photos of chair for replicating and pulling apart and cast in bronze later.

At one point in the assembly phase, Bridgette looked up from her work through the window that the then-open back of the bronze chair provided. It perfectly framed a view of the fervently-praying man, head-on. Bridgettesat and stared; it took her breath away.

"It's one of my favorite views, that no one else will ever see," Bridgette said. "There's so much passion there as he holds his head in his hand, kneeling over that Bible. He's really praying earnestly, 'God help us.'"

Revisiting the project anew as she redesigns her website and prepares for new artistic endeavors on the horizon, Bridgette finds herself newly affected by her praying man sculpture in a world now touched by the uncertainty of COVID-19.

"Take this sculpture, and what it represents, and let's get on our knees more to pray," Bridgette encourages, as she works now to dedicate every day to prayer with a group of women, and to continue reflecting God's promises in her art. "This world needs prayer. If a statue like this is a reminder, let's be reminded to pray one for another. This land needs healing."

Written by Jordan Jarrett

Jordan Jarrett is a member of University Communications at Dallas Baptist University.