Sandstructures, Just Because


Calvin Seibert spends up to four days a week during the summer at Rockaway Beach in Queens. Credit Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

We do not need to explain it; we just like it (click the image to go to the original):

It looked like some futuristic civilization poking up out of the footprinted sand on Rockaway Beach in Queens. A lifeguard walked over to inspect it, then some surfers. A group of dripping children stopped, transfixed.

“Young people tend to watch for longer,” said Calvin Seibert, 57, who was shaping the structure. “If people sense you’re serious about it, they’ll watch longer.”

Mr. Seibert, a Manhattan artist, is serious enough about it to take a long subway ride to the beach up to four days a week from June through September.

Since coming to New York 35 years ago, Mr. Seibert has tired of seeking exhibitions for his sculptures and drawings.

“I found it a hassle making art for shows,” he said. “I like to see results at the end of the day.”

So he began making sand structures, not drizzle-turreted castles strewn with seashells, but rather modernist buildings with fantastical twists that reflected his love of progressive design.

His sand creations combine aspects of serious modern architecture with the whimsy of a boy in a sandbox.

“This is what I’m into — you won’t see any mermaids or alligators,” he said on a recent weekday while smoothing the sides and sharpening and straightening the edges on his latest creation.

It recalled the work of Marcel Breuer, Eero Saarinen and Le Corbusier, all favorites of Mr. Seibert, and was typical of his beach designs, mixing Cubist and Brutalist elements.

It looked like an architect’s model for a modern-art museum or an opera house, all geometric shapes and neat edges atop a sensible, squared-away bunker supported by vaulting buttresses and with a drastically swooping roof.

Mr. Seibert, who is single, works part-time as an artist’s assistant. He takes the A train to the beach from his tiny (and sandy) rent-regulated studio in Chelsea.

His tools include a five-gallon plastic paint bucket and a few trowels he made from Plexiglas. He begins by scooping dry sand with his bucket into a mound at the high-tide mark, and then fetching buckets of water from the ocean to flood the mound and then knead it into a muddy consistency.

The delicate shaping process begins at the top, to avoid dropping sand onto finished work below. He works until nearly sundown.

“You have a time limit, and that’s it — you basically have to live with whatever you do,” he said while patting, packing and buffing the sand like an expert mason.

Mr. Seibert wore rubber bootees, board shorts, a long-sleeve shirt and aviator sunglasses. His wide-brimmed hat was fastened under his chin, lest the wind blow it off onto the delicate structure.

“I’m really just sketching,” he said as he worked. “If I preplanned it, I’d just be following some design and then it wouldn’t be fun. It would require getting it right and perfect, and I’m not into that.”…

Read the whole article here.

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