Artist Makes Incredibly Complex Sand Castles

Calvin Seibert
Calvin Seibert / Calvin Seibert

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