The last load of laundry is all folded and put away, but then your kid dumps out a bag of stinky, sweaty soccer gear. After you’ve spent the day cleaning the house, your crowd rumbles through the door, trampling pristine vacuum lines, scattering crumbs on the tabletops. The dinner you’ve fussed over all day — slicing, dicing, simmering, stirring — is wolfed down in minutes, and you’re left with congealed remains and crusty plates. Yes, the beauty of our endeavors can be fleeting!
This weekend, here in Sarasota, artists created their own ephemeral masterpieces at two different festivals, with no thought given to the temporary existence of the work.
Friday, at the Chalk Festival in Venice, we stood on a scaffold at an unused airport runway to take in the 450 foot shark painting created by a team of artists. In town, we viewed more pavement art in their beginning stages. Some artists sat hunched on the asphalt, drawing freehand, glancing occasionally at pictures in their hands. A couple laid out huge computer printouts punctured with holes so that color could seep through a chalk-filled sock smacked on the pavement. Others used long-stemmed chalk holders to outline their work. The finished pieces often didn’t look like much to our naked eyes, but when we looked at our photos, we gasped. Breeching whales jumped out of the ocean; bears perched on ice floes, toads sat on lily pads.
On Saturday, we headed to the Siesta Key Crystal Classic, a sand sculpting competition. Virtuosos wielding trowels and shovels built castles, a beach-friendly Santa, and a selfie-snapping gorilla. Some sculptures featured faces as haunting and alive as those we’d seen at Versailles. Sculptors chiseled away — if you can chisel sand — and beautiful figures emerged from the white sugary stuff of Siesta Beach.
The chalk artists and the sand sculptors seem to have the same mindset — their art is temporary. They’re content to enjoy creating something beautiful just because it’s beautiful. Crowds gawk at their work for a couple of days, and this is enough. In a day or two, they’ve left their work behind, off to another festival in another town, perhaps.
This afternoon, we went back to Venice to see the works that weren’t completed on Friday, and the artists were nowhere to be seen, not around to hear the praise from the throngs viewing their completed pictures on the pavement.
But, our visit was cut short. Gray clouds turned black, and we dashed to the car to dodge the downpour. Now, as I sit in our living room, listening to the heavy rain outside, I feel wistful. The sandy beauties have already lost their edges, and colorful rivers of chalk run along the curb in Venice.
The world’s museums are filled with centuries-old paintings and sculptures, but I celebrate the artists who are content to let their creations dissipate in a thunderstorm.