Sanding Ovations (2013)

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A few weeks ago Treasure Island hosted Sanding Ovations – a giant sand castle competition. Apparently the giant sand castle competition because it seems like every significant FL beach was hosting one over the weekend. Needless to say, I had to go.

When was the last time you went to the beach and saw art made by people older than three years?

—The Horseman—
Chris Guinto (Key West, FL)

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Chris Guinto’s “the Horseman” was both one of the first sand sculptures I saw, and one of my favorites. What can I say? I like my sculptures like I like my music, busy with too many ideas that don’t always pay off.

Such as the second skull visage behind the first. While I guess the front of the jack-o-lantern doesn’t create the truest skull, you can still see the obvious components. It inspires a skull interpretation, if not showing the viewer one.

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I mean, look at it from the right and you see the (mounted) Headless Horseman.

Shift to the left and you see:

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A clearer shot of the skull components. So that there’s really no reason to place another skull in the back of the jack-o-lantern.

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Especially when the sculpting there is inferior to the detailing shown on the front.

—Wild Card—
Dan Belcher (St. Louis, MO)

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Dan Belcher’s “Wild Card” was another sculpture that was right off from the Sanding Ovation’s entry point. While certainly eye-catching (who’d believe you could make sand do that?), it wasn’t a favorite as its subject, the Joker playing card, is too “11th grade, chubby, metal-head” for my tastes.

Give me abstractness and obtuseness any day of the week.

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—Scattered-Balance—
Elianne in Het Veld (Amsterdam, the Netherlands)

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Elianne in het Veld was the first Dutch contestant of the day. And she brought the heat with a design that intergrated two diametrically opposed ideals: the unforgiving structure of blocks with the innate softness of human physiology.

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The lines here are what impressed me the most. How a giant block of sand could be made to look as if it’s a bunch of thin sand blocks propping each other up.

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—Where Now?—
Jan Salen (Amsterdam, the Netherlands)

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Jan Salen’s “Where Now?” might’ve been the nicest in taking a theme and then breaking said theme down into a million tiny pieces. (Or, in this case, tiny sand people.)

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It also had the competition’s best use of scale; creating a clever illusion of distance so nicely done that you almost forget that you’re looking at sand.

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As such, “Where Now?” won 2nd place; losing out to (1st place winner) “3EY0ND” from a detailing standpoint more-so than a scope standpoint. Both were large-scale productions; I’m guessing “3EY0ND” was just more abstract and thus more arty which edged it toward the win.

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—Chalk Talk—
Marianne van den Broek (Key West, FL)

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“Chalk Talk” shows you just how deceptive these sand sculpture games can be. On any given day, you’d be blessed to find something of this magnitude while wandering a beach. It’d be the topic of water cooler discussion for weeks!

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But here, today, it was clearly second string. Wooly mammoths might amaze down in Key West, but compared to Jan Salen’s “Where Now?” it’s way too little.

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—Ascension—
Rusty Croft (Carmel, CA)

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“Ascension” is another sculpture who’s impact was certainly muted by its neighbors’ grandeur. I mean, here’s a sand castle made to look as if it’s a fish leaping from the water on one of America’s prime beaches.

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Look at the detailing! Look at the empty spaces sculpted within. And it doesn’t even rank!

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—Beached—
Sue McGrew (Tacoma, WA)

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After perusing Sue McGrew’s body of work (at least the work available on her website), one can’t help but feel that “Beached” is an outlier in her otherwise outstanding portfolio.

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—The Key to a Woman’s Heart—
Dan Doubleday (Treasure Island, FL)

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How Dan Doubleday didn’t win a localized award for “Sand Sculpture Most Likely to Win Over the Ghost of Salvador Dali” is beyond me. Though actually being from Treasure Island might’ve lessened the effect of sculpting in a heavy dose of the hometown’s favorite artist.

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Easily the most surreal sculpture of the day, and also the winner of ShenaniTims’ own “Sculpture Most Likely to Remind a Lonely Blogger of a Bizzaro Japanese Art-House Film” award.

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—On Communication—
Benjamin Probanza (Acapulco, Mexico)

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Scanning his website, one quickly realizes that Benjamin Probanza doesn’t just sculpt sand; he’s also a true artiste. With work ranging from sand sculpting (obviously) to animation.

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He also doesn’t seem to hold much faith “in communication,” judging from the disconnect Probanza put between one’s lips and one’s ears.

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Perhaps it’s just a happy accident, but said disconnect forces one to appreciate “On Communication’s” highpoint: its texture.

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Anyone (or, any of the artists gracing Sanding Ovation with their presence) could have thrown up two monoliths; one bearing a pair of lips, the other an ear, and, with the help of a specific title card, made a grand statement.

It’s the interior swirls representing the mind that really grab the attention though. Especially considering how, on first view, I assumed that Probanza had just etched whatever pattern floated into his head while sculpting.

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No, the placement is deliberate, and the sculpture is better for it. Even the crazy delirious cubist take on the ear and lips mirror how hideous the intricacies of faces look when viewed close up. The pores on the outside of the ear to let the sound in.

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There really should’ve been an award for “Most Deliberate” sculpture.

—3EY0ND—
Nathan Bouchard (Jobi) (Montreal, Canada)

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And then the winner. I really don’t know what to say about this one except that, after viewing it, I really enjoyed Benjamin Probanza’s concise vision.

Here we have a mess of ideas. At first glance it’s pure Cthulu horror shot through Paul Verhoeven’s “Starship Troopers” lens. A giant, insectoid structure with two human hands blindly trying to dig their way out.

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Then, on the backside? Earth. Does Bouchard believe us to be the Brood? I mean, we are redesigning the world to suit our own image, but humanity’s mindset is far different from the hivemind insects have.

Bees, termites, ants, all have certain roles to which they’re bound. Sure, there are many faceless office workers amongst the seven billion humans on the Earth, but there’s (usually) always a chance of breaking the mold. No matter how far off, it’s there. A self-determination so strong that not even one of the world’s most potent brainwashing device, Catholicism, could extinguish it. Instead they adopted it, making free will part of their canon.

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