Carving It Up - Page 3

Once merely a summertime beach hobby, sand sculpting has hit high tide—as fine art and an international phenomenon
Aged in Comfort
Awesome sand sculpture at the beach town of Søndervig, Denmark.
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Highly regarded sand sculptor Dan Belcher carving away on the beach.
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Dan Belcher's 'Torch.'

"When sand sculptors get together, there's an energy there and a competitiveness to do your best work," Rademaker says. "Quality has gone up, and subject matter has changed from cartoony animals. People are doing it more as an art statement now."

The art is "growing in leaps and bounds," says Belcher. "Twenty years ago if you were asked how many professional sand sculptors there were working full time in the world, you could almost have named every one. Now [the numbers are] astounding.

"And I'm getting to work with so many of them."

"The field is changing, in that the bar is being raised with more people, and a lot of Europeans being involved in it, and more art people pushing the limits doing wild and crazy work," Rademaker says.

"What's great now is, there are so many professional sculptors who have worked in clay, bronze, and marble who got into sand because there is work, because of the ability to work on a large scale, and to be more prolific," he adds.

In Europe, sand sculptors are active in almost every country, including Russia. One center is the Netherlands, where sand carvers' work inspired Jara's early efforts.

"What they were doing boggles the mind. It gave me a reason to keep going the direction I'm going. These people are doing these profound works of art. I can do this too."

"The Europeans brought an artistic understanding. Before, Americans were all about sandcastles, mermaids. In Europe, the idea behind it is much more mature," says Jara, who has created a unique style, rooted in surrealism but with an autobiographical touch.

One of his sculptures, 'Putting Down Roots,' which appeared to show two humanoid, blasted tree trunks in an embrace, "is about putting down roots. We were going to be having a baby," he says of himself and his wife, "but it was too early to tell anybody. At the bottom you can see a little acorn about ready to sprout a leaf."

Many sand sculptors are trained artists—Rademaker got a degree in art at San Jose State—while others are self-taught. Some work in other media as well, including ice during the winter.

Deb Barrett-Cutulle, a Massachusetts sand carver known for expertly crafting in sand the logos of firms that sponsor sand contests, is a full-time artist for whom sand is just one medium. But for Barrett-Cutulle and many others, sand is their favorite medium.