Sand Artist's Giant Artworks Made to Be Weathered Away by Tide & Rain (Video)

Video screen capture. Jim Denevan/video: Great Big Story via YouTube

When walking along a seashore, most of us would probably not see a big, blank, sandy canvas, waiting to be inscribed with some kind of beautiful drawing. But that's how California artist Jim Denevan sees it when he's faced with this ever-changing zone between the ocean and land. For him, it's a place to walk out, to make meaningful large-scale artworks in the sand, with either sticks, rakes or his feet and hands -- before the ocean tides come in to wash it all away. Watch this lovely short film of Denevan at work via Great Big Story:

Denevan, who is also a former surfer, chef, and founder of traveling farm-to-table group Outstanding in the Field, has been creating these works on the sand, ice, and soil for over 20 years. One of his most well-known works is an enormous temporary piece of land art done on the frozen Lake Baikal, stretching over nine square miles. Denevan sees his work as a kind of synthesis between the mind and the body, using only what nature provides:

To draw in the sand, it's a balance between a mental and a physical game. They are both equally important. [..]
I like to come down to the beach with nothing. The tools are sitting there on the beach. Come down with nothing and leave with nothing. For me, that's the most fulfilling choice of how to do it.

Denevan, who can sometimes walk up to 30 miles in a one-day stretch, working 7 to 8 hours on the land, has done works in a number of countries around the world. Many of them are photographed from the air, to give viewers a sense of the giant scale of these interventions. These photos are then exhibited in galleries and published in magazines, to offset the impermanence of such works. But this ephemeral quality is the whole point: to come into the present moment of things as they are. These works almost seem like a way to make peace with that impermanence, to reconcile the human endeavor in the face of time's passage, says Denevan:

Drawing in the sand is the ultimate of '[being] in the moment'. I want to finish when the tide is about to destroy the drawing.

Temporary land art such as that of Denevan's reminds us that there is a bigger world around us that's constantly changing, and yet full of beauty that only the soul's eye can see, experience and form. It's a beauty found only in coming fully into the present moment if we pay attention. See more over at Jim Denevan.