Medium of Work:
Can a toy be an object of fine art? The work of Venezuelan artisan Mario Calderón would certainly seem to answer in the affirmative. Using a wide range of materials, including not just intricately carved wood, but also magnets, elastic, and any number of varieties of paints and crayons, Calderón creates toys meant to be loved and treasured by children and adults alike.
Born in Caracas, Calderón initially studied music, and then entered medical school. Later, he decided to focus on strictly artistic endeavors, producing the wooden toys for which he is now well-known. Today, Calderón lives and works in the historic city of Mérida, Venezuela. Here, his workshop employs around 5 artisans, each with a specialized role in the realization of these highly labor-intensive works of art. Until recently, there was no Venezuelan tradition of toy-making, so Calderón’s art practice represents a relatively new tradition.
Calderón has exhibited his artwork in numerous Venezuelan museums and galleries as well as abroad. For nearly twenty years, he has taught workshops on the development of toys for children and adults in different countries. In 2014, Calderón was declared Cultural Patrimony of the Nation by the Institute of Cultural Heritage. The same year, he received the Prize for Excellence for Andean Region Artesania from UNESCO.