A burial, complete with a tiny headstone and casket, was performed for a local man's thumb.

John Powers has relied on his hands to sculpt some of his most inspiring works. The Hudson Valley artist began his career crafting bronze statues before turning to more abstract, geometric figures. A massive 50-foot tower of interlocking steel beams was erected by Powers in Brugge to celebrate the Belgian city's Triennial in 2018. In a recent interview with the New York Times, the artist revealed that a freak accident has completely changed the trajectory of this gifted man's art career.

Powers was using a table saw to cut wood for a fence when the wood jammed, sending his left hand into the saw. The accident left him with a missing thumb and ring finger. For a sculptor whose hands are his paintbrush, the accident was devastating.

"Can I Keep My Thumb?"

Before his surgery, Powers says he told his surgeon that he wanted to keep his thumb. The artist explained on his Instagram account that the request was a tough sell.

He was pessimistic until I told him my reasons were religious (dad didn’t believe in ghosts on clouds with harps, he believed in the resurrection of the body), and he admitted that might work. With the help of a lovely funeral director named Agnes and someone at NYU named Janice I’ve negotiated the return of my thumb.

Now that Powers had his thumb back it was time to plan the funeral.

A celebration of "My Left Thumb."

The artist quickly got to work on hosting a proper send-off for his missing digit. An invitation went out to friends requesting their presence at a ceremony in his yard next to the final resting place of his cat.

Powell crafted a small wooden casket where the thumb was placed with a pair of its favorite nail clippers.


A tiny headstone (or thumb stone?) was erected above a hole in the ground where the digit would be buried. During the ceremony, Powers says rain began to fall "just like a funeral in a superhero movie”. The artist played the Rolling Stones' “Under My Thumb” and then eulogized the severed body part. Powers praised his wife, Jenny, calling her "the merriest thumb-widow ever."

The Best Funeral Gift Ever

One of the funeral guests showed up with an incredible gift for the grieving hand. After the ceremony, attendees were invited onto the artist's dock for some refreshments. That's when Powers was presented with a small hook he could use in place of the missing thumb, like a tiny little pirate.


Turning a tragic incident like this into a celebration of life is a fantastic demonstration of the human spirit. While many people would probably wallow in self-pity after enduring grueling surgeries and having their career affected by the lost digits, Powers is doing his best to move forward.

While he's still in recovery, the artist is already tinkering around with projects involving paper and the stacking of blocks. We can't wait to see what he comes up with next.

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