Thursday, November 4, 2010

Alameda Sand Sculpture


By Elliott Joseph

Photography By Roz Joseph

Copyright 2010 Elliott Joseph

December 2010


I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read."
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that marked them and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing besides remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
-- Percy Bysshe Shelley


Who can explain the compelling anti-Ozymandias passion to create beautiful sculptures and castles of sand, only to see them washed away within hours by a relentlessly approaching tide? This curious and highly vulnerable art form can be seen on countless bathing beaches around the world each summer, yet nowhere is it more poignantly and expertly practiced than at the Robert Crown Memorial State Beach in Alameda, California where each June several hundred serious men, women and children compete in the Annual Sand Sculpture and Castle Contest.

They come well prepared to this broad expanse, with its handsome view of the San Francisco skyline. They bring home-made tools, shovels, containers for carrying and spraying water, a sketch of their planned sculpture, warm clothes for protection against the wind, and enough food and drink to sustain them during the feverish work session to meet the deadline and beat the water before it erases their painstakingly constructed achievements from the memory of mankind.

The sculpture must be made of sand, with trimming of wood, rocks and shells found that day on the beach. That's the only rule before they go to work, singly or in groups, on the small plot of beach assigned to them at the low tide morning registration hour. By mid-day their sculpture will have to be completed so that the judging, and the all-important picture-taking, can take place before the inevitable.

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