Fearless Girl sculptor Kristen Visbal said when approached about the project, she knew immediately she wanted to be the artist who would create a bronze statue of a little girl staring down the Charging Bull on Wall Street in New York City.
Six weeks to the day since the statue was unveiled on International Women’s Day, Visbal said she knew it would have a big impact, and that was appealing.
“I was completely in,” she said.
Visbal gained worldwide fame in a matter of hours March 8, after her slightly-larger-than-life statue of a young girl staring down Charging Bull was revealed by the morning sun. She was commissioned as part of collaboration between State Street Global Advisors and McCann New York.
Visbal, who also runs the business side of her studio, said she’s been so busy she’s only had time to respond and catch up on emails. Among the emails were emotional letters from women who found strength in the statute, she said. “It’s been a humbling experience.”
Visbal playfully quips she won’t photograph well because she’s so pale. “It’s been so hectic,” she said, noting she was up until 5 a.m. the morning of the interview answering those emails.
“I haven’t been able to get out and take my long walks on the beach,” said Visbal, who grew up near Potomac, Md., but for years has called the south end of Dewey Beach home. “We started coming here when I was 11. Some of my happiest memories are when I’m near the sea.”
For the past 19 years her studio has been located in an old farm house in Nassau Valley Vineyards, just outside of Lewes. She studied the sculpting artform at the New Jersey-based Johnson Atelier foundry.
The studio is located off a dirt road, behind the winery’s vineyard. Visbal said when she first moved into the building, there were holes in the walls, and she shared the space with pigeons. But, she said, it was a good space for her to create.
“The floors were concrete, and the walls were high,” she said. “I’ve been here ever since.”
The studio has two rooms – an office and her working area – and an attic not suitable for public viewing – there’s just a bunch of boxes up there, she said. During one of her marathon creative sessions, she said, she blows up an air mattress and sleeps on the floor of her office.
Sleepless nights started months before the unveiling of Fearless Girl. She said she was given months to create a sculpture that under normal circumstances might take a year to complete. She said she wasn’t able to clean up the ears, hands or pony tail as much as she’d have liked.
Two girls – one from Milton and one from Wilmington – were models and, while the work was expedited, Visbal said she treated the process like any other.
“I took 360 degrees worth of pictures, every 10 degrees, of the girls, and then I started drawing,” she said.
Visbal said the biggest challenge was making the girl look strong without also being belligerent or confrontational.
The night of the installation, Visbal said she was out on the street until 4 a.m. making sure everything looked just right. At that point, she said she went back to her hotel, slept for 45 minutes and went back to see the reaction.
“I knew people were either going to love it or hate it,” she said. “Either way, we were looking to make a statement.”
Visbal is well aware that Charging Bull artist Arturo Di Modica is not happy with the placement of Fearless Girl. She said she is sorry he did not receive the sculpture as she'd intended. She said Charging Bull stood solo for decades, and now something has been introduced that requires sharing the arena.
The meaning of Charging Bull didn’t change, she said, but a dialogue about the inclusion of women in the work force was needed.
Visbal said sculpture, like many other art forms, is feast or famine. “It’s not that easy of a road,” she said.
With all the notoriety Fearless Girl has brought, Visbal admits the days of famine are probably over. She said she’s considering reproducing the statue, but those plans are not yet definite.
Moving forward, as an artist, Visbal said she will be venturing more abstract pieces. In her studio now is the beginning stages of a series she’s calling Twisted. The first piece will be a man whose arms are outstretched above his head. The arms look like a the ends of a bread bag wire tie. It’s a statement about addiction, she said.
“I’ve been doing realism for 19 years,” she said. “You’ve got to understand realism before you start distorting it.”