Using a rake or a piece of driftwood, California artist Jim Denevan shapes monumental works on the sandy beaches of the world, spending hours on huge and often complex geometric patterns destined to be washed away at the turn of the tide.
A surfer and a chef as well as a sand artist, Denevan has lived in Santa Cruz since he was a teenager, apart from spending a spell in Europe as a model. He began his sand drawings in the 1990s, when his mother – who raised him and his eight siblings alone, following the death of his father when he was only five years old – developed Alzheimer’s disease. Sand art became a way for him to cope with her devastating decline. ‘To get out every day and to lose a drawing that’s a mile across every time – it’s a great fight,’ he says.
Despite their accuracy, his designs are the improvised work of the moment and are executed freehand, without plan or measurement. Photographs of his ephemeral works are in major collections, including that of New York’s Museum of Modern Art. ‘It’s like drawing on a piece of paper,’ he says, ‘except my piece of paper happens to be several miles across.’ A single drawing can involve the need for him to cover 40 km or more.
Read our interview with the artist in Frame 93.