There’s something happening on the beaches of San Francisco.
Andres Amador is making stunning and majestic patterns in the sand with nothing but a rake and a focused eye.
Whether Amador knows it or not, he is working within the ancient Tibetan Buddhist tradition of creating healing blessings and honoring the idea of impermanence with sand mandala.
Tibetan Buddhist monks work in groups to create complex images of mandala made from sand. First drawing the blueprint on the ground, which typically consists of detailed geometric patterns, they then use tiny tubes, funnels and scrapers to lay down colored sand on top of the drawing until a rich and symbolic image has been created. Sand mandala take between five and seven days to make and utilize millions of grains of sand. The images and symbols depicted are meant to bring blessings and are representative of the picture of a palace of a deity seen from above.
After completion, mandala are ritualistically destroyed. Piece by piece, in a specific order, the symbols are removed and the sand is placed into a jar. The jar is then wrapped in silk and brought to a natural body of water, where the sand is released. In some ways, the most important part of sand mandala, this destruction underlines the Buddhist belief that everything in the material world is fleeting.
Amador’s drawings in the sand, though not mandala in the traditional sense, have a similar feel with their repeating designs and meticulous creation—both of which suggest a moving meditation—but they are undertaken by a solitary man on a much grander scale, and left to the waves to dispose of at will.
Art that is intended to be temporary is a sacred genre, a true celebration of the moments in which the art is created. If it is true that reality only exists in the “now” rather than in the past or in the future, perhaps this is the “art of now.”
The willingness of the artist to meticulously create and then deconstruct such art, or to let it be deconstructed by wind and water, is a concession to humility and a recognition of the truth that “there is nothing permanent except change” (Heraclitus).
Amador’s work will never hang in a museum—even when it is photographed, the photograph is not the work itself— but it is all the more valuable for its fleeting existence.
I hope I have the good fortune to see it in person some day; until then, I’ll take heart in the knowledge that a man stands on a beach with a rake, and a vision he is not afraid to express or relinquish.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise