A world in a grain of sand

I’d seen photographs of sand sculptures, but the real thing was quite surreal. Many of them are massive and others have surprisingly delicate detail. The sculptors use only tightly-packed wet sand to create the art and the finished sculptures get sprayed with a mixture that helps protect the surface from weather damage. Some of them had been standing for months, so you could see plant growth here and there, and the sunlight highlighted the occasional strand of web.

The pieces range from the cleverly-rendered through the thought-provoking to the bizarre. Many of them make you wonder what inspired the sculptors: a giant spider, piles of heads, creatures growing out of other creatures, enormous disembodied body parts. Perhaps a childhood reading history of science fiction, superhero comics, and Alice in Wonderland, followed by several years’ experimentation with hallucinogenic drugs and sleep deprivation?

Quite a few are humorous (aged superheroes sit around in wheelchairs watching television) and some make political statements. They all make you marvel at the craft and think of the ephemeral nature of the material. The appropriately Buddhist-inspired piece is called Transanding. The ground is a raised mandala in a Star of David shape with roughened dirt-like sand between the smooth lines. The figures meditate timelessly, with sand running through their hands back onto the ground.

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