A California artist transforms beaches into spectacular sand art that washes away with each tide. Andres Amador makes magic in the sand. He creates large scale earth art that washes away with the next tide. He is inspired to draw intricate geometric patterns or flowing organic waves on a canvas designed not to last.
Amador says people are fascinated by his life’s work. At first they may be puzzled at why he would take the time to create such an ephemeral form of art, but when they observe the beauty of the patterns and feel the poignancy that comes from knowing that beauty is fleeting they see the magic.
The Japanese have always been fascinated by ephemeral beauty. They write haikus about cherry blossoms on the snow to capture a rare, transitory event. The moment is more precious with the knowledge that it will not last. Amador’s art is similar. He says his work resonates with people because, “Truly, it’s the story of our lives. Our lives are impermanent. And the tide is unstoppable.”
The earth is both canvas and medium for Amador. He calls himself an earthscape artist because he manipulates the earth’s surface to create his art. Earth Art is a movement that began in the 1960s as artists became drawn to using natural materials, manipulating the landscape, and entwining art with the environment. Amador takes it to a higher level by only using sand and only drawing where he knows the earth’s forces will sweep his drawing away. Amador works between the tides to manifest his design, transforming the beach into a beautiful work of art.
“Sometimes it feels like the designs are wanting to express themselves, and I’ve been chosen as the means by which they will occur,” he says. He feels as if the patterns are already a part of the earth and he just makes them visible for a short time. His art, he says, is a way to get in tune with the natural world. At times Amador uses his knowledge of sacred geometry and fractals to create perfect geometric patterns. Other times he goes with the flow and feels the curves and swirls that should be expressed in the sand. Either way, his design always feels like a natural part of the earth.
Luckily for fans of his art, Amador uses a remote control helicopter to video and photograph his art. After creating his vast sand drawings, he can achieve a new perspective by viewing them from the air. Looking at his work in its entirety and without obstruction allows Amador to appreciate how the patterns fit into the landscape.
Amador is not the only artist to work in sand. Jim Denevan creates truly massive works of art all across the world. He uses beaches, deserts, and even ice. He holds the world record for creating the largest piece of art ever on Lake Baikal in Russia. Similar to Amador’s fractals, Denevan based his masterpiece on the golden ratio. Although some of his designs last longer than the next tide, they are still temporary and fleeting. They wash away, blow away and melt away. If it were not for the pictures, his art would disappear, living only in memory; but, just like life, the fact that the beauty once existed is the essential point.
What compels humans to create vast, insubstantial art? From ancient times people have created on a grand scale. The Adena earthworks of Ohio, the Chalk figures in England, the Nazca Lines in Peru and the geoglyphs of Australis are just a few. The Nazca Lines especially cannot be viewed in their entirety unless from high above the earth. Recently, an airplane pilot identified more artwork as he flew over Peru. The motivation for large art is the human desire for grandiose gestures, but what about the impermanence of art?
Buddhist monks spend hours creating colorful Mandalas out of grains of sand. The three dimensional drawings represent the impermanence of reality and also cosmic healing. Mandala is Sanskrit for “world in harmony” and laying out the mandala is a form of meditation. As it is swept away some of the sand may be gifted to spectators as a symbol of personal healing. The rest is poured into moving water to spread healing in the world.
Other artists draw in chalk on city sidewalks or builds sculptures from materials that will disintegrate. Any child’s sandcastle or gardener’s flower bed can be an ephemeral work of art. Creating the beauty is more important than keeping it. Amador says that working with the sand and the tides has made him more aware of the shifts in the earth, more cognizant that everything changes, and to find peace in life is to embrace the change. He leads earthscape classes on the beaches of California so that others can experience the joy of creation and letting the creation go. As the Buddhist monks know, there is something healing about focusing on developing the art and then giving it back to the earth. Amador says, “Once I have created a piece I feel it has moved through me and I can let it go…. I feel complete.” He transforms beaches into spectacular works of sand art, then nature takes them back.
By: Rebecca Savastio