CGS Sculpture Artist: Nico Amortegui

Arts Everywhere teamed up with the Center for Galapagos Studies (CGS) to call for proposals for sculptures in honor of the 10th anniversary of the Center for Galapagos Studies. Four artists were selected to create a piece of human-sized art (4-7 feet) with recycled and sustainable materials that represent and celebrate the wildlife of the Galapagos Islands.

Learn more about Nico Amortegui, one of the four artists chosen for the CGS Sculpture project, and his sculpture of a Galapagos Tortoise, El Gran Gigante! 

About the Artist

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your artistic journey.

I grew up in Bogotá, Colombia in a family where almost everyone was creative and artistic. My paternal grandfather was a doctor but painted beautiful landscapes and still life pieces as a hobby. My maternal uncle is a full time artist, my mom and sisters are designers, and my dad an architect. I was surrounded by this world and learned a lot of skills by doing. I began work as a full time artist in January 2011.

a blue polka dot llama sculpture in the woods

Who or what are your inspirations? 

Folk art is one of my biggest inspirations. It is nostalgia, wonder, and admiration for the artisans. I particularly enjoy visiting artisan workshops in Latin America when I travel.

Pozo de Flores by Nico Amortegui - a colorfully painted woman holds a bowl of flowers
Pozo de Flores by Nico Amortegui

One word to describe your art?


an abstract figure plays an abstract instrument with his mouth

What’s your dream project?

Every project is a dream in many ways. I spend a lot of time thinking about how a sculpture should be constructed so that when it comes time to build, I know how I want to go about it. After I get started, it takes off on its own journey and I flow into the finished process.

an abstract colorful figure

Favorite place you’ve traveled to or somewhere you’d like to go?

Oaxaca is one of my favorite arts destinations and Tel Aviv is my all-time favorite city that I’ve visited twice now. Morocco is a place I would like to go that I have not experienced.

On the CGS Sculpture Project

Sculpture info

  • Title:  El Gran Gigante
  • Description:  Galápagos Tortoise

What drew you to apply for The Center for Galapagos Studies Sculpture project?

I love doing animal sculpture and because the purpose was to advocate for one of the most biodiverse places in South America. I am South American – from the incredibly biodiverse country of Colombia – so applying for this project made sense.

Tell us which animal you choose and why.

I chose the tortoise because it’s the one animal I have the most memories of – not the Galápagos one per say – but different types of turtles in the various places I’ve lived from Colombia to Florida. I also wanted to do this animal as an homage and to perhaps call attention to the critical endangerment. It’s incredibly sad to learn how many hundreds of thousands existed a 100 years ago and now there are only several thousand Galápagos left.

Galapagos tortoise in nature

What sustainable and recycled materials did you use?

Netting, wire mesh, plastic bottles and planters, tile.

Nico squats down as he assembles body of sculpture

How do you hope the community will engage with your piece?

I hope the viewer will discover the various materials that make up the sculpture and notice the introduced natural and non-natural pieces that symbolize invasiveness (to the islands).

Nico squats as he tightens the wiring of the sculpture

What’s your favorite aspect of your sculpture?

Its face and legs.

the skeleton of the sculpture of the Galapagos tortoise

In your proposal you mentioned the importance of the word “impact.” Can you share a little about how your piece represents the full meaning of the word “impact”? 

The impact is the moment of pause to first take in the aesthetics of the sculpture as an artistic piece and second, to realize it is overcome with invasiveness. The impact of human actions or lack thereof in protecting this ecosystem can be seen if we pay attention… just like the ‘invasive’ materials incorporated in the piece. My hope is that others are also appalled by the dwindling population numbers and at the very least, it creates awareness. 

Nico stands behind the galapagos tortoise sculpture which is now covered in cement

View Nico’s rendition of the Galapagos tortoise at at a location to be announced soon! Be sure to look for the other three pieces as part of this project outside FedEx Global Education Center, Morehead Planetarium, and The Arboretum. 

All photos are courtesy of Nico Amortegui. To learn more about Nico, visit his website or check out his Instagram or Facebook page