We are honored to share this guest post written by one of our contributing artists, Andres Amador. His amazing, large-scale sand art delights and enchants viewers and we’re so glad he captures it all in photographs. His “Connections” image is featured in our Environmental Art 2015 wall calendar. We asked him to share some thoughts about working with an impermanent medium:
Impermanence is a central aspect of the art I make. Yet for something that will exist so fleetingly, a surprising amount of forethought, planning, and energy is required.
To create my large beach artworks, I must have a beach with the right properties: large (so I have space to work), flat (so high tide gets it all wet) but not too flat (or it doesn’t drain), with sand not too coarse (or the design would dry out too quickly) nor too dark (or there wouldn’t be sufficient contrast for my lines to stand out). And ideally there must be a high vantage point from which to see and record what I’ve created. A beach with all of these qualities is rare. Then, in order to create my largest artworks, I must wait until the most extreme tidal conditions coincide with the right beach conditions—during the daylight so photos are possible. (So many great tides happen during the night!) Once these details are worked out, I start work about two hours before low tide and generally work until I have done as much as I can do before the high tide begins erasing my efforts.
Putting so much effort into creating something destined to begin dissolving even before I finish was not my goal when I first began. In what feels like a previous life, before I was using the beach as a canvas, my main art form was a type of sculpture that glowed under black light, and I was often hired to sculpt installations for events and festivals. I would spend all day creating an effect that would be experienced for, at most, several hours.
By the time I stumbled upon what the beach could offer, I was well adjusted to having my creations exist for far less time than it took to make them. I have a garage full of the sculptures that I am unable to part with. In contrast, all I bring home from an outing at the beach are photos. On that level alone the beach art is freeing—there is nothing I can hold on to and therefore I allow myself to let go of trying. (Detachment is a continuum, I admit—I still obsess over backing up the media I capture, but that takes considerably less grunting than hauling sculptures around.)
Once in the grips of the love of raking on the beach, however, the ephemeral nature of what I was doing began to have an impact on who I was and what I recognized my art as offering.
Nothing is permanent. Being in the presence of something that is palpably experiencing and expressing its ephemerality is a confrontation with the relationship we have to our own mortality. My beach art is a micro, fast-forwarded version of our own brief life story. As with the inevitability of the returning tide, everything we do will fade and we ourselves will eventually be forgotten. Nihilism is an easy place to go upon accepting this reality.
However, it has been my experience that, in knowing something will not last, one places greater attention on it, and in a way more life is experienced. In the case of my art, which could begin dissolving perhaps even within the next few minutes, when people see it being created live, they are compelled to set aside whatever world they are inhabiting—of to-do lists and anxieties and plans—and pay attention to the present moment. When my art is seen in reproductions, the recognition of imminent dissolution prompts deeper inquiry. In the bigger picture beyond art, coming to terms with one’s own mortality is among the most liberating experiences one can have, dramatically changing the nature of how one lives.
For me, this realization translated into a deepening of the journey I was already on, one of valuing my experience as it was occurring over valuing the goals I was striving to fulfill, and consequently becoming ever more available to the flow of life. I have found myself far less attached to the results of my labors, focusing instead on my appreciation for the opportunity to be engaging in those labors—in the case of my art, being able to be at the beach, my feet in the sand, my body sore from hours of raking as I race to complete as much as I can before the waves return.
Andres Amador is a San Francisco-based artist. His artwork can span over 100,000 feet, achievable only during low tide. With tight time constraints and big goals, Andres is posed with the question: ‘How does one create from within that which one is creating?’ Exploring this concept of self-creation has brought Andres to investigate natural and human-devised systems of structure and growth. His ultimate desire with displaying the artwork is to bring a sense of wonder and immediacy to the viewer. Andres has been featured by NBC Evening News, Al Jazeera, CCTV, The Today Show, BBC, CNN, the Discovery Channel, and numerous T.V. programs and periodicals globally. His artwork has appeared on beaches in the US and internationally, with his primary canvas being the Northern California coastline.
Please visit his website to see more of his spectacular work.
For a very limited time, the Environmental Art 2015 wall calendar is 50% off!
Special price expires at midnight (PDT), Thursday, November 13. No coupon code required.