Artist Makes Incredibly Complex Sand Castles

Like Buddhist sand mandalas, artist Calvin Seibert's work is made to be blown away. 

Spending about eight to 10 hours a day, and four to five days per week, Seibert builds impressive sand castles with lines so neat, they look like they were carved from concrete. The artist makes sand castles on and off the beach, hitting all of New York's favorite oceanside haunts: Fort Tilden in the Rockaways, Jones Beach on Long Island, and Coney Island.

“I get a different reaction with different groups of people,” Seibert said. “At Fort Tilden, hipsters will take an Instagram and keep on walking. On Coney, I recently had a group of kids who came up and wanted to jump on it. I said, ‘Hold on! Let me get my camera first!’”

Because of the nature of sand, the artist's work never lasts long. Usually the creations are promptly washed away by the water or knocked over by a clumsy beach-goer. At most, the castle might last a week.

The process of making the structures is not far from the approach a casual builder might use. He starts with a large pile of wet sand, gathered with a five-gallon paint bucket, then starts sculpting with his hands, and eventually moves to tools like plastic spackling blades and Plexiglas trowels. The tools are wiped clean after each cut to get those satisfyingly smooth surfaces.

From the look of his work, many have suggested that the sand artist has a background in architecture. Despite the complexity of his structures, Seibert has never worked with a blueprint or drawn up plans.

“Lots of people say ‘Mayan’ or ‘Frank Gehry’ when they look at them,” he said. “But that tells me that I haven’t been focused enough. I’m not thinking ‘Mayan,’ I’m just doing it from the weird, unconscious place I’m at.”

Inspiration for the project started when the artist's father, ski champion Pete Seibert, helped lead the construction of Vail in the mid-1960s. The young artist would play in the shadows of the new buildings' foundations and framings. 

Although Siebert's castles look like works of art, he would never want them in the confines of an art gallery. “It’s important that they’re at the beach,” he explained. “A sandcastle is ephemeral. There is a thing on the horizon that’s going to destroy it. That’s what makes it powerful and interesting.”

Images via Calvin Seibert

[h/t: CityLab.com]

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Tom Etherington, Penguin Press
The Covers of Jack Kerouac's Classic Titles Are Getting a Makeover
Tom Etherington, Penguin Press
Tom Etherington, Penguin Press

Readers have been enjoying classic Jack Kerouac books like The Dharma Bums and On the Road for decades, but starting this August the novels will have a new look. Several abstract covers have been unveiled as part of Penguin’s "Great Kerouac" series, according to design website It’s Nice That.

The vibrant covers, designed by Tom Etherington of Penguin Press, feature the works of abstract expressionist painter Franz Kline. The artwork is intended to capture “the experience of reading Kerouac” rather than illustrating a particular scene or character, Etherington told It’s Nice That. Indeed, abstract styles of artwork seem a fitting match for Kerouac’s “spontaneous prose”—a writing style that was influenced by improvisational jazz music.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of The Dharma Bums, which was published just one year after On the Road. The Great Kerouac series will be available for purchase on August 2.

[h/t It's Nice That]

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John MacDougall, Getty Images
Stolpersteine: One Artist's International Memorial to the Holocaust
John MacDougall, Getty Images
John MacDougall, Getty Images

The most startling memorial to victims of the Holocaust may also be the easiest to miss. Embedded in the sidewalks of more than 20 countries, more than 60,000 Stolpersteine—German for “stumbling stones”—mark the spots where victims last resided before they were forced to leave their homes. The modest, nearly 4-by-4-inch brass blocks, each the size of a single cobblestone, are planted outside the doorways of row houses, bakeries, and coffee houses. Each tells a simple yet chilling story: A person lived here. This is what happened to them.

Here lived Hugo Lippers
Born 1878
Arrested 11/9/1938 — Altstrelitzer prison
Deported 1942 Auschwitz
Murdered

The project is the brainchild of the German artist Gunter Demnig, who first had the idea in the early 1990s as he studied the Nazis' deportation of Sinti and Roma people. His first installations were guerrilla artwork: According to Reuters, Demnig laid his first 41 blocks in Berlin without official approval. The city, however, soon endorsed the idea and granted him permission to install more. Today, Berlin has more than 5000.

Demnig lays a Stolpersteine.
Artist Gunter Demnig lays a Stolpersteine outside a residence in Hamburg, Germany in 2012.
Patrick Lux, Getty Images

The Stolpersteine are unique in their individuality. Too often, the millions of Holocaust victims are spoken of as a nameless mass. And while the powerful memorials and museums in places such as Berlin and Washington, D.C. are an antidote to that, the Stolpersteine are special—they are decentralized, integrated into everyday life. You can walk down a sidewalk, look down, and suddenly find yourself standing where a person's life changed. History becomes unavoidably present.

That's because, unlike gravestones, the stumbling stones mark an important date between a person’s birth and death: the day that person was forced to abandon his or her home. As a result, not every stumbling stone is dedicated to a person who was murdered. Some plaques commemorate people who fled Europe and survived. Others honor people who were deported but managed to escape. The plaques aim to memorialize the moment a person’s life was irrevocably changed—no matter how it ended.

The ordinariness of the surrounding landscape—a buzzing cafe, a quaint bookstore, a tree-lined street—only heightens that effect. As David Crew writes for Not Even Past, “[Demnig] thought the stones would encourage ordinary citizens to realize that Nazi persecution and terror had begun on their very doorsteps."

A man in a shop holding a hammer making a Stolpersteine.
Artisan Michael Friedrichs-Friedlaender hammers inscriptions into the brass plaques at the Stolpersteine manufacturing studio in Berlin.
Sean Gallup, Getty Images

While Demnig installs every single Stolpersteine himself, he does not work alone. His project, which stretches from Germany to Brazil, relies on the research of hundreds of outside volunteers. Their efforts have not only helped Demnig create a striking memorial, but have also helped historians better document the lives of individuals who will never be forgotten.

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