Carolina Wickenburg is a New York–based sculptor whose work ranges from life–size public statues to portraits of her impressive clientele of European royals and distinguished art patrons. Her sculptures are striking, emotive and figurative pieces cast in bronze.
“Her Hippos” are born
Carolina’s foray into wearable sculpture was prompted by her love of jewelry and matured into a fundraising project for breast cancer research. Her hand–sculpted hippos are cast in gold, silver or brass, and inlaid with emerald eyes. Baby Hippos have recently been added to the family! Adopt a baby hippo and support Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
Why was the hippo your inspiration for this project?
“Sculpting is an ancient, yet timeless, art form. The hippo is an ancient Egyptian mythological figure; a protector of women. The hippopotamus seemed the perfect subject for its reassuring, strong yet sensuous form, as well as its mythology. They came together for me. They made sense.”
How did you come into sculpting in particular?
“With a major in Psychology and a minor in Art, I began my career as a social worker focusing on the assimilation of immigrants into their local communities. During that period, we opened a community arts center. My early work there brought sculpture to my attention and that’s when I began to dabble. I quickly realized how much I enjoyed this hands-on approach to art.”
Do you prefer to sculpt in stone or clay?
“While I enjoy transforming stone into “flesh”, stone remains rigid and structured. The malleability of clay, however, allows for spontaneity and the freedom to let the piece evolve naturally, and as needed. The tactile feel and flexibility of the clay. The three-dimensionality of it. It’s magical.”
Tell me about your creative process?
“Hah! I do enjoy the process, but the creative part of sculpting is highly intense, intricate and introspective. You are very much in the moment.” With an eye for detail, Carolina follows a strict approach to capture her subjects using photographs and live sittings. After completing her piece in clay (which can take up to 6 months or more depending on the size), a rubber mold is made and eventually a Bronze piece. Her goal is to capture the essence of her subjects. In her full-bodied pieces, she uses the body’s anatomy, its muscles and facial features to evoke an emotion or capture a feeling. For her portraits, her goal is not only to resemble her subjects and convey their essence, but to make each portrait a piece that stands on its own. After every portrait is complete, Carolina prides herself in asking “would I like to have this sculpture in my house?” Her answer has to be “yes”. She finds portraits the most difficult of her works.
I have heard that you were born to be an artist. Tell me about that.
“I am surrounded by artists!”, she laughs. “My father was very creative. He was an avid painter and my brother is highly artistic. And as you might expect, I married into an “artsy” family as well.”
About Carolina Wickenburg
Born in Havana, Cuba, Carolina immigrated to the US at an early age. She and her Austrian husband, reside in New York (when not traveling to the family hotel, Casa Mia, in Austria). They have two sons. As a successful NYC based architect hailing from a long line of artists (including world-renowned Alfred Wickenburg), and with a creative eye himself, her husband recognized Carolina’s talent and encouraged her to pursue art shortly after their marriage.