Artists who work in hyper-realism study the human body much like medical professionals do. They take into account every fold of skin and every broken capillary. Each pore is painted onto polymer clay; every greasy hair follicle lodged into place. Hyper-realism is an art form that shocks and intrigues even non-art lovers and makes us ponder an array of issues, from genetic engineering to what we classify as the ideal human aesthetic.
Not only do these art forms remind us of the complexity and individuality of the natural human body, but seeing them on such a realistic or large scale makes us feel vulnerable. However, some artists prefer to create smaller pieces and shrink the human frame. Instead of feeling small and exposed when we observe them, the tables are turned, and the sculptures themselves appear vulnerable.
One artist who creates such artworks is Brazilian designer Sheila Mrofka, who constructs minute, hyperrealistic baby sculptures. With their chubby feet, soft dewy skin, and curled up posture, every inch of her bizarre creations resemble tiny human beings. Not only do they look like real babies, but with their wide-eyed gazes, Mrofka captures the fragility of newborns which makes her work so fascinating to behold.
Although her original artistic practice was working with wood, Mrofka tells Creators that she randomly came across these miniature sculptures and was so intrigued by them she wanted to create her own. "I found the miniatures by chance on the internet," she says. "Previously, I had worked with wood crafts until I discovered these hyperrealistic miniatures constructed with polymer clay. I had never done anything like it before. I began following some tutorials until I started making my own."
Mrofka sculpts the polymer clay by hand, letting her creativity flow as she transforms the flesh-colored material into small figurines. Constructing the babies' bodies first, she then sculpts their faces, giving them distinct features and expressions. She pays attention to every detail: natural folds of skin, changes in skin tone from head to toe, and subtle mottling. Her work is so lifelike, viewers half expect the tiny beings to squirm, coo, and babble, like real babies do.
The artist often photographs her works by placing them in her palm. Viewing her skin next to the clay sculptures, there is a marked difference, but not between the natural and unnatural. The variation is similar to that between young and old skin; the texture of the sculptures appears soft and subtle, like the skin of newborn babies.
Mrofka says that though most people are impressed by the richness and detail of her sculptures, her work elicits mixed emotions, and some people find her work too lifelike or challenging to behold.
"To create something surreal is to bring a little magic," she says. "When someone sees my miniatures for the first time, I always hear a 'Wow!' or an 'Oh my god!' or 'How is that possible?' People are amazed, but of course, others are afraid of how much they resemble a baby."