By Pamela Dozois

Features writer

Some of us recognize our innate talents at an early age, while for others it takes half a lifetime to discover them. Caroline Bolding is one of the late bloomers.

A painter and sculptor, Bolding said she was first inspired when, as a child, she saw a Disney television show in which a man was shaping the spires on Sleeping Beauty’s Castle out of clay, which amazed her.

“I was absolutely transfixed. It was so far beyond my comprehension. I put that amazing moment in a closet in my mind and never forgot it,” she said.

When she was nine, her mother took her and her brother to France to meet family.

“We walked all over Paris, and everywhere I looked there were sculptures of someone great, something historic. I was a kid from California. We had nothing like that in my town,” Bolding said. “Suddenly sculpting was a much bigger thing than make-believe. It wasn’t a storybook castle, it was great people, historic events, real purpose. But I still didn’t identify with the sculptors who made them. So, I took it all in. I put it in that closet in my mind and forgot about it.”

It wasn’t until Bolding was older that her interest in art became tangible. She was in the process of decorating her home and wanted paintings like the ones she had seen in museums she had visited.

“I wanted paintings like I had seen in the Louvre museum, LACMA, and the Norton Simon, so in the 1990s I started painting studies of them. In the process I surprised myself. I discovered I could paint,” she said.

It wasn’t until some years later that she noticed an ad offering a weekend sculpting workshop at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. She signed up.

“I was so nervous. We were a small group of about 16. Tables were arranged around a nude girl in pose, and in front of each of us was some clay, some wire, and a 10-inch brace to build her on.

This photo was taken when the sculpture was nearly finished and Bolding was about to start the Bible text of the sculpture.

“As soon as I had the clay in my hands, it was like the world just vanished,” she continued. “Suddenly there was a connection between sculpture and someone creating one. It was an ‘aha’ moment for me. I forgot the room, the world, everything. There was just the model’s form and the clay.

“I took it home, but after a while I stopped thinking about it. I had no reason to sculpt, nothing important like in Paris. So I put it out of my thoughts and into that closet in my mind with everything else. “

Bolding had worked in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles for most of her life, but she said at the time she felt that her life needed to take a different direction, one of following her faith and letting God drive. So she sold everything and moved to Los Alamos.

“I had visited and fallen in love with the valley in 2008. I knew it was where I wanted to live. When I moved to Los Alamos in 2013 I was ready to start on a new adventure,” she said. “I found a house which had sufficient space for my newly blossoming creative needs. I was ready to follow my faith in God to lead me to find what I should sculpt and what I should paint.

“One day, I simply asked God, ‘What should I sculpt?’ Immediately in my heart I heard, ‘Sculpt what you love.’ I heard myself say, ‘I love people who are in their ‘God moment,’ and suddenly I saw in my heart Billy Graham praying. It was immediate, absolute,” she said.

Without much of a plan, as this was her first life-size sculpture, she ordered a box of clay. By August it arrived and she began sculpting while saturating herself with videos of Rev. Graham on YouTube.

“I had no idea how to do this, but as I went along, it just came,” said Bolding. “By September I was deep in the clay. As I listened and watched Rev. Graham preach, seeing thousands of people coming to Christ, his profound devotion and purpose poured into the clay. His words became part of it. It was incredible.

“I saw his heart pouring out for his fellow man and I would just weep to see and feel the clay responding to his faith; his brow furrowed in deep connection with God, his hands clasped in prayer. I would just marvel. I couldn’t think about what I was doing, I just had to let it come. The sculpture just flooded out of me.

“I was nearly finished when I noticed something interesting was happening that I couldn’t have planned,” Bolding continued. “I discovered different time periods of the reverend’s life were represented in the piece, such as the style of his lapel, his jacket, his hair. It was as if all his life was a part of the sculpture. And yet, his brow and his hands remained timeless. I finally finished it and just a week later Billy Graham announced his final outreach ‘My Hope,’ which coincided with his 95th birthday. His key message was to pray. Suddenly, here was miraculous confirmation that I had understood my purpose well.”

Bolding’s plan was to give the sculpture to an institution affiliated with Billy Graham.

“I reached out to Wheaton and others who wanted it, but they couldn’t help with the cost of bronzing, transporting and installing the sculpture. Even the Billy Graham Library liked it, but sadly, they had no funding either,” she said.

What’s to become of the sculpture? Bolding doesn’t know. She would like to have it bronzed and donate it in the hopes that it will be seen in as many places as Rev. Graham preached. But for now it will remain with Bolding, awaiting its final destination.

“My hope is that it will find a home where it will inspire those who see it with Rev. Graham’s message – pray,” she said. “His whole life’s work was expressed in that one word. The sculpture is a quiet example of how close God is – as close as a prayer, and it has been a blessing to portray that.”

Bolding continues to paint. Her newest series of oil paintings is entitled “Living Water,” which depicts God’s creation of the seas.

“Someday, I would love to sculpt Jimmy Carter in his ‘God moment’ as well,” she said.

For more information about Bolding’s work, email