If at any point this summer you found yourself wandering the streets of Tribeca, you may have come across a massive, colorful wooden head. No this wasn’t a beheaded giant, it was the work of emerging New York artist, Nicolas Holiber. The colossal “Head of Goliath” sculpture was commissioned by the Parks Department to inhabit TriBeCa Park all summer long. This bulbous structure was made with recycled wood and found materials from all over the Manhattan area.
A recent visit to Holiber’s Brooklyn studio quickly revealed that although he is nearly double my height, he is most definitely down to earth. Recently featured in Brooklyn Magazine’s 30 Under 30, the artist has had his fair share of jobs; ranging from teaching sculpture to Yik-Yak abusing high schoolers (he actually loved teaching and hopes to do it again some day) to painting prosthetic limbs for the film industry (Will Smith’s 2013 movie, After Earth).
Holiber’s studio space, which is an ex-funeral home, was packed with an eclectic mix of materials, tools, and works – some of which were standing, some hung, and a few resting on handmade podiums. A wall of neatly hung woodworking tools compliment an adjacent wall that is lined with his series of Egyptian “funeral masks”. Though the inspiration behind his works are ancient, his rugged style is distinctively modern.
Most of Holiber’s current works are almost entirely sustainable, however don’t mistake him for a hippie environmentalist. He is actually the rare breed of a badass carpenter with the talent and vision of a contemporary sculptor. The artist carries a BFA from the University of Vermont and MFA from the New York Academy of Art. Holiber explained that during his college years he was primarily trained as a painter. However, after he was selected for a prestigious third-year fellowship, he stepped away from painting and took to sculpture. He finds a lot of his inspiration layered in Greek and Roman mythology and carries heavy modern influences like Picasso’s Cubism and the sculptures of American pop artist, Marisol Escobar.
Last month, Holiber’s work was featured in the Sugarlift booth at the Affordable Art Fair in New York. His relief painting/sculpture, “Greenpoint Goddess” was a crowd favorite, and sold along with a plastered head piece, “Moon Man”.
As for future plans, Holiber was granted an artist residency on Governor’s Island for the spring of 2016. He is unsure of the direction he will be taking, but is considering going back to his painting roots.
Despite an impressive body of work and recent successes, Holiber is refreshingly humble. He is neither an egocentric nor a tortured soul – instead he is a relatable, normal guy who makes really cool art.