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An interview with artist Calvin Seibert

22nd Aug 2018

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Architecture at its truest form can be deemed as a type of expression. Structures stem from the mind of an architect who have envisioned something they wish people to see and a lot of the time, evoke positive emotions. The concept of said structures only being temporary may come as a disheartening thought to many, but when they are made out of sand; do you really have the luxury of thinking otherwise? Calvin Seibert doesn’t seem to mind. Residing in New York, he takes himself down to the beach and creates these brutalist inspired sandcastles that seem to resemble a futuristic haven. 

What first inspired you to make such amazing structures out of sandcastles?

As a boy I spent many happy hours roaming construction sites near my family’s home. Concrete foundations were architectural brutalism at a child’s scale.

Your sandcastle structures, do they represent or mirror any kind of real life physical structures?

I’m inspired by a wide range of art and architecture. From the Sienese frescos of Ambrogio Lorenzetti to the work of Japanese architect Kenzo Tange. Brutalism is a favourite. Raw concrete structures are to me, sandcastles writ large.

Where do you build your castles mostly?

I’m originally from the mountains in Colorado but moved to New York to attend art school in 1979. I soon found my way to the city’s beaches, and that is where I have done most of my building. Along the way, I’ve also worked on beaches in Hawaii, Mexico, and at Cap Ferret, France for a Hermes photo shoot.

What is the process that goes into building your sculptures?

It’s a long day, 10 hours is typical. I begin with a pile of sand mixed with water. The sand must be thoroughly wet and packed. I use a few very simple plastic trowels to shape the castles, starting at the top and working down. I begin with a rough idea of what I want to create but allow things to take their own course and often end with something very different and unexpected.

Once the Castles are built, what generally happens to them?

The castles might last only 5 minutes. Either they collapse in front of me or they are obliterated by someone before I reach the boardwalk. However they may last several days if the weather conditions are just right, and they often do, even on the most urban of beaches. It is particularly nice to see them in the next morning’s light.

Would you say that a part of your art is leaving your sandcastles to the elements? What would you say this represents?

Like all art, it gets made and then goes on to have a life of its own. I don’t give much thought to the sandcastle’s impermanence or how that speaks to people. I live for working in the moment, out in the open air, with stormy skies, an approaching tide, nature bearing down on a desolate beach. Watching the light move across the castle over the course of the day.

There is really a wonderful whimsy about your work – are these scenes that you might perhaps have imagined from your youth, or ones that seem to have evolved as you’ve grown up?

Making stark simple castles with a zen like minimalism would be fashionable for sure but it’s not really me. As much as I admire great works of art and architecture, I also love the ugly, the off kilter, the mash-ups of confused design one see everywhere, these things amuse me and I take more delight in them.

Calvin Seibert:

Instagram: @calvinseibert
Facebook: @mudandwood