SURRY COUNTY, N.C. — Artist Chip Holton has spent months on a sculpture of the original Siamese twins, Eng and Chang Bunker.
“They are life size,” said Holton, from his studio in Greensboro. “They are 5’3″ in their shoes.”
The conjoined twins achieved worldwide fame as a medical curiosity and toured all over with the circus before settling in the White Plains community, just outside Mount Airy. The two married sisters and eventually had 21 children.
“The story is both bizarre and wonderful at the same time,” said Holton, who is depicting them in their 30s. Despite their fame, very few photographs exist of Eng and Chang during that time. Holton used what he could find to draw sketches and eventually make a couple of miniature models before starting the life-size sculpture. “This was an attempt to be more realistic and pay homage to them.”
The rear of the sculpture was the most challenging part because there were no photographs of them from behind.
“They really couldn’t lift their arms over and put their arms in front of themselves,” he said. “The two arms are always behind them.”
Even though the twins have been gone almost 150 years, Holton hopes his sculpture will give people a chance to come face to face with these historical figures.
“I hope they will get a sense of these individuals and then from that image, their difficulty and wonderment,” he said. “They made their life work under great difficulty and handicap.”
The clay sculpture will be cast in bronze in Seagrove and eventually put on display in a future museum to the brothers in Mount Airy. The community is currently working to raise money for the museum. A temporary museum is currently located in the basement of the Surry Arts Council.