Jordan High grad is a world-renowned sculptorSep 11, 2023 12:19PM ● By Peri Kinder
Eric Michael Wilson created this sculpture based on Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged.” A life-sized version of the piece will be installed as a monument in Boise. (Photo courtesy of Wilson)
For as long as he can remember, Herriman resident Eric Michael Wilson has been drawn to art. He loved to sketch and paint as a child and taught himself how to sculpt at Jordan High
School. It was supposed to be a pottery class, but Wilson had bigger ideas. He talked his teacher into letting him create a life-sized bust and he was hooked.
Wilson had the opportunity to work as an apprentice to Richard MacDonald, a legendary figurative sculptor in California, where Wilson studied anatomy and écorché, a figure sculpted to show the muscles without the skin.
“In France in the 1800s, they would sculpt the skeleton and then build the muscles, the deepest ones to the most superficial, so they would really learn anatomy,” he said. “Because of their diligent study of anatomy and art, and standing on the shoulders of giants like Michelangelo, they raised the bar like crazy.”
Écorché has almost become a thing of the past, with very few sculptors learning and creating the anatomical structure of their figures. But Wilson dedicated himself to anatomy, spending hours at the University of Utah’s anatomy lab where he studied and dissected bodies. Now he’s one of only a few people in the world practicing this type of art. He considers it a calling.
Some of Wilson’s figures are used as anatomical references for other artists and he teaches anatomy workshops at places like Industrial Light & Magic and Pixar.
“Sculpture is not about detail, it’s not about being really pretty, it’s about trying to tell the human story,” Wilson said. “You’re trying to share something that is emoting the human spirit and, hopefully, it’s something people can relate to.”
People are definitely relating to Wilson’s art, finding their own connection and interpretation of his creations. He’s currently working on an Atlas sculpture, based on Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged,” that will be installed as a monument in Boise, Idaho.
He’s also creating a 30-foot-tall Phoenix made from stainless steel, although he usually works with bronze. Wilson’s sculpture is based on the mythical bird that lives for hundreds of years before bursting into flames and is then reborn from the ashes.
Wilson’s Phoenix is a flying woman that symbolizes bravery and the ability to reinvent. As a final touch, he’s figuring out a way to plumb the statue with natural gas or propane to set it on fire.
“Art’s very subjective but I think it’s cool that long after I’m dead I’m still having some sort of positive impact, and that’s all I can really hope for,” he said.
Wilson comes from a long line of artists and craftspeople. His father was a painter and his mother was a professional seamstress, making costumes for movies. Wilson’s grandfather was a woodworker and carver and owned a large furniture company.
With his wife Amanda, Wilson is raising their blended family of four daughters and two sons in Herriman. For more information about his work, visit @EricMichaelWilson on Facebook and Instagram.
“I create something, and the coolest thing is that people project their own meanings and have their own personal experience with art,” Wilson said. “It’s like a universal human experience. I don’t know what’s going on behind it, but there’s definitely some kind of spirit there, a collective experience.” λ