By Julieta Barrera
Buenos Aires, Jan 31 (EFE).- Modeling clay to bring out the spirit and essence of his subjects is the mission of internationally acclaimed Argentine sculptor Carlos Benavidez, who through his work has immortalized Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Astor Piazzolla, Eva Peron and other legendary figures from his homeland.
“Figurative and expressionist,” the artist said. “The form is the pretext for bringing out the person’s character. Capturing their personality, their concerns.”
The 57-year-old native of the central city of Cordoba, now based in Buenos Aires, began his career in the arts at age 38 in what he describes as a “second birth.”
Two decades later, his sculptures are among the most frequently exhibited in public spaces in Argentina and he regularly receives private commissions from clients in his homeland and abroad.
Previously the owner of an advertising signage company, Argentina’s severe 2001 socioeconomic crisis forced him to explore other career options.
“I really couldn’t see a solution, not realizing that it was in my hands, that it was inside me,” the artist told Efe.
Benavidez decided to take up drawing again, an activity for which he always had a natural affinity. Then, when he applied his creative talents to the medium of clay he discovered his calling as a sculptor.
“I realized I’d have a piece of clay in my hand until my dying day, that it flowed,” the artist said.
One of the first contests he won involved erecting a more than three-meter-tall statue of Argentine singer Mercedes Sosa.
Numerous other opportunities came his way following that success, he said.
Eva Peron, Juan Domingo Peron, Raul Alfonsin, Diego Maradona … “I’ve had the chance to represent many leading figures in culture and sports,” Benavidez said.
His works include a monument to Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) in Mar del Plata, the home city of that bandoneon player and tango composer; and a statue of Eva Peron (1919-1952) in Los Toldos, the small town in Buenos Aires province where the mythical first lady and “champion of the poor” was born.
Benavidez also is responsible for the Paseo de la Gloria, a series of sculptures in the Argentine capital’s Costanera Sur promenade that pay tribute to some of the country’s greatest athletes.
Among the stars honored there with resin sculptures are four-time NBA champion Emanuel “Manu” Ginobili, Grand Slam tennis champions Guillermo Vilas and Gabriela Sabatini, British Open-winning golfer Roberto De Vicenzo and five-time Formula One drivers’ champion Juan Manuel Fangio.
A sculpture of Messi also once stood there, but after being vandalized on several occasions a single resin cleat is all that remains.
Although he never met Maradona personally, Benavidez is the creator of many sculptures representing the hero of Argentina’s 1986 World Cup triumph.
In 2006, a friend presented several of the artist’s creations to “El Pelusa,” and Maradona responded by saying, “tell the sculptor that I love what he’s doing and that everything ‘Diego’ touches turns to gold,” he said.
Fourteen years later, the artist in 2020 was commissioned to make one of the most imposing monuments in honor of the soccer icon, who had recently passed away.
Located outside Madre de Ciudades Stadium in the northern provincial capital of Santiago del Estero, standing five meters (16 feet) tall and weighing two tons, the bronze statue shows a defiant Maradona sticking his chest out and standing with his hands on his hips and a ball at his left foot.