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Beach art: Here today, gone tomorrow

Portrait of artist Andres Amador with some of his tools.
Portrait of artist Andres Amador with some of his tools.
(Lonnie Hewitt)

What were you doing on Super Bowl weekend? My husband and I spent a fair bit of that time on Cardiff Beach, a wide expanse of smooth sand that encourages long southward beach-walks even in not-so-low tides.

On Saturday, Feb. 12, we were surprised to notice a group of people with rakes making rather fancy patterns in the sand—a lot different from the sort of sand-scribbling we sometimes see. We did our usual three-mile walk, and on our way back, stopped to take cellphone photos of what seemed to be a whole sequence of large-scale, geometric designs.

We were just in time to see the leader of the group doing a kind of closing ceremony and recognize one of the participants—Encinitas-based art therapist Ellen Speert, the director of California Center for Creative Renewal, and now, with her husband Paul Henry, co-owner of PHES Gallery, a new contemporary art space in Carlsbad.

It turns out that the beach art was part of a day-long workshop that began and ended at Speert’s retreat center, and the leader was Andres Amador, a Northern Californian who was one of the featured artists in the gallery’s most recent exhibition, “Impermanence.”

A drone’s-eye view of workshop participants with their completed artwork.
A drone’s-eye view of workshop participants with their completed artwork.
(Andres Amador)

The patterns in the sand, like Buddhist mandalas, were part of a process that includes the creation and dissolution of artworks, with full commitment to the work of creation and full understanding that the art will disappear with the incoming tide.

This is what Amador is known for. Over the past 15 years, he has become an acclaimed master of impermanent art, creating “Earthscapes” in various locations, most often on beaches. He smilingly referred to what he does as “capturing impermanence,” since although high tides wash away all his artworks, he uses a drone to photograph them from above, so there is some record of their existence.

Amador’s background is in environmental science, and art is his way of expressing empathy for the natural world. He and Speert originally met on Torrey Pines Beach years ago, and they have done several workshops together since then.

Drone view of the finished solo piece.
Drone view of the finished solo piece.
(Andres Amador)

“Every beach is a canvas,” he said. “All the materials are there, but there’s a narrow window of time. If I have a message, it’s the importance of getting out of our heads, interacting with the world around us with our whole bodies, and getting into the joy of being alive. Creativity is a joyful act and acknowledging impermanence encourages us to be present in every moment, connect with others, and discover new ways of finding joy.”

That Saturday workshop was just the beginning of Amador’s artful weekend. On Super Bowl Sunday, we saw another beach workshop in progress, and on Valentine’s Day, he was back doing one of his solo creations, with a young boy from Scholastic International Publications as his assistant. After our walk, we were lucky enough to catch him photographing with his drone.

He had one more event that Tuesday. For the last eight years, he has been coming down here to create a memorial piece for the beloved son of a local family whose birthday was that day. Each time, he tries to include other projects in the area, and this year, happily, our beach-walks coincided with three of them.

Mark your calendars for mid-February 2023, check his website a few months before then, and you may be lucky enough to do the same next year.

For more about the artist and his Earthscapes, see www.andresamadorarts.com. For more about Ellen Speert’s workshops and special events, go to artretreats.com


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