By: Kelsey Al
Artists from around the world gather at Treasure Island Beach every November for Sanding Ovations, which is in it’s sixth year. The event is held behind The Bilmar Beach Resort and the finished sculptures stay standing for three weeks after the weekend competition.
There is no theme for the sculptures this year. Most of the artworks are abstract or surreal, and feature human forms. Third place and Sculptors Choice winner is Sue McGrew’s piece titled “Vertigo”. It features a vortex of bodies on one side, being sucked into the eyes of a portrait that loosely resembles the artist on the reverse side.
The sculptors use conventional tools like palette knives and spatulas, as well as instruments unique to the medium such as tubes for blowing away unwanted sand.
Artist Rusty Croft from California describes working with the fragile medium, “You have to find the limit of the sand, how far it will hold”. Croft has been in the sand business for 17 years, and says Florida’s sand has a lot of clay-like chunks that creates an obstacle for sculpting.
The first place sculpture, “Love Never Dies”, is two skeletons embracing each other on the ground, reminiscent of the mysterious skeletons discovered several years ago in Siberia. The artist Jonathan (Jobi) Bouchard is the youngest of the sculptors, and traveled here from Montreal. This is his third year competing and has won first place all three years.
In addition to live art, the beach was packed with food and art vendors. Multiple bands took turns performing. Visitor and artist Aaliyah Martinez says that she thinks this is one of the most unique events in St. Petersburg, and enjoys seeing contestants from all over the world. Two sculptors came from Amsterdam, one from Mexico, and several from the west coast of America.