“IGNITE”: Carlos Beltran Baldiviezo fires up histories in clay

“I love working with clay,” says ceramicist and sculptor Carlos Beltrán Baldiviezo. “I love its history—both mythical and real—and its amazing versatility. Clay, being so malleable and supple in your hands, can absorb any information given to it and, by its very nature, preserve itself for millennia.”

Beltrán’s appreciation for the deep history of his medium is evident in his new exhibition, “IGNITE: Clay Works After Fire,” at the University of the District of Columbia. Combining beauty, profundity, solemnity, and joy, his work reminds the viewer what the artist himself never forgets: that the clay itself comes from and connects us to the earth, so it has a nature—and sometimes an instinct—of its own.

“I create my figures with an idea in mind, but I am ultimately led by the nature of the clay, and by my subconscious,” Beltrán says. “My work reveals the clay’s body characteristics, showing gestural imprints left by my tools and my own hand. In the end, a figure may be dramatically different from my original conception.”

One prominent work that took on a life of its own is the Merman, who began as a homage to humanity’s connection with the oceans. “He represents our interconnectedness and the equality of all living things,” the sculptor explains. “He is contemplating, gesturing both to give and to receive, and suggesting we reach equilibrium.”

Energized and elated by art, Beltrán is quick to point out that the meaning of his work doesn’t begin and end with his own observations. He’s always eager to meet the public—and to learn what they see.

“I love to hear each viewer’s interpretation,” he says. “That is the magic of art to me.”

“IGNITE: Clay Works After Fire” is on display from March 6 through March 22, 2013, at the University of the District of Columbia Gallery 42 in Building 42, A-08, Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Meet the artist at a reception on Wednesday, March 13, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., or visit him at the Torpedo Factory in studio 6.

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