Monday, April 20, 2009


Lido, 18.IV.09

I am walking along the beach north from the Spaceport toward the jetty. The sun is bright and hot, but the clouds are volatile and when they blow over, all the ragazzi in bathing suits get goose bumps. A hundred meters up the beach the crowd thins to walkers and joggers sensibly dressed, and a random smattering of people up in the duney fringe behind driftwood wind barricades.

The sea has deposited an awesome load of shells, most with their life still in them. They are often scattered across the mounds of older, deader seashells that crunch loudly under foot.

I am an obsessive seashell watcher. When Steve and I lived briefly in St. Pete Beach we walked along the shore every day looking at them, collecting. I was the worst. I couldn't resist. When I left I sent boxes of shells to friends all over but I kept none because I was coming here.

Something catches my eye in the middle of the sandy stretch between the Adriatic and the open fields and derelict apartments and beach clubs that haven't opened for the season.

At my feet, far too deliberate to be accidental, is a round ornament the size of a canteloupe sculpted in sand and covered with a crown of shells. The design seems Byzantine. So I snap a picture and move on.

Further up the beach, there is more shell art; bold geometric patterns, shapes similar to liturgical staffs, fragments of vanishing mosaic work, and then very elaborate assemblages of shell, driftwood, and found objects. These are so large that it is often hard to tell where the art ends and the natural world begins.

It is also impossible to tell how much of them I am seeing. The wind and water and the people and animals have already changed them. They resemble the patched together remains you see so often in museums of antiquity. Our mind fills in the gap between what is there and what is no longer there.

That is precisely the realm of the imagination, the nodal point between nature and art, the reality and illusion.

I am wondering who made these? When do they work? Do these artists vagabond the world's beaches leaving behind a trail of art that tide and wind erodes?

It is very Zen and reminds me of a topless dancer I once knew in San Francisco. The dancing was her night job; she was an artist, going to the Art Institute. She had a startlingly vivid imagination; her art was sui generis and I mourn the loss of the few pieces of her work I once had; far more than the Warhol I lost. She spent a summer on the beaches of Mexico, painting the shells of hermit crabs. When she was done she would repopulate the shells and watch them walk off down the beach. Also very Zen. These shell artists are like her.

Hello, Linda, wherever you are!


Please enjoy the BEACH ART GALLERY.

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