How This Artist Turned Traditional Sand Painting Into Street Art

How This Artist Turned Traditional Sand Painting Into Street Art


Each speck of sand that falls from the grasp of this hand is a carefully calculated movement. When Joe Mangrum isn’t creating pieces in galleries or in his studio, he spends a lot of his time
in Washington Square Park in New York City. There, he competes with Mother Nature and spends a painstaking six
to eight hours on his knees, squeezing and letting go of
just the right amount of sand at just the right speed to create vibrant pieces of
art he calls sand paintings. Sand painting is exactly
what it sounds like. It’s the art of pouring
colored sand onto a surface to create a design. Early versions of this can
be traced to Native Americans in the Pueblo and Navajo tribes. Joe’s designs pull from
different significant shapes and symbols from around the world. His work might remind people
of something familiar: mandalas, which are
spiritual or ritualistic geometric patterns that are
symbolic in many religions. But Joe’s work isn’t
religious or ceremonial. Joe Mangrum: I don’t use the
term mandala specifically, because I feel it puts people in a more Eastern philosophy box. And I’m really incorporating different cultures around the world. From Africa, there’s vèvè in Africa, and Celtic knots and Chinese knots, and different inspirations as well as science and nature and biology. Narrator: So, how exactly does this painstaking artwork come together? And why do it in a park? The most important factor
for Joe in deciding if he’ll make the trek
to Washington Square Park isn’t the temperature, but the wind. Joe: If the wind gets up to 15 mph or so, it’s dust. Narrator: When the wind isn’t
ideal for creating his pieces, he’ll work in his studio. These are more intricate,
precise, and permanent, so that people can enjoy them even if they’re not in the park. But if the wind conditions are good, Joe will carry about 25
pounds of colored sand to the park to create his work. In a good week, he could use
up to a quarter ton of sand. Joe: My hand technique is
really just taking the sand, gripping a handful, and
letting it just flow through this little part of my hand, and I adjust my pinky
so I just let it flow. Narrator: That part seems pretty simple, but mixing it with more specific
and intricate detail work, like shading and smaller shapes, means Joe must have complete
control of his hand muscles. Joe: I can do quick lines and stop it just by squeezing my hand together, and then kind of redefine them by going over, back and forth. Narrator: Knowing how much sand to release and how quickly or slowly to do it is crucial for Joe to execute his vision. And it’s a process that has taken over 10 years of practice. Joe: So, if you get really
close to the ground, you can make thin lines. And then you maybe widen
the flow with your pinky, and you can go upward and it flows. So it’s essentially like
a graffiti spray can, only it’s gravity fed. So the further you get
back, the wider the spray. Narrator: So creating
designs as intricate as these should require hours of planning, right? Well, in reality, none
of it is planned at all. All of the shapes and colors are chosen and created freehand in the park. Then, when he’s done, he’ll spend five to six more hours talking to people who
stop by to take a look. Joe: The favorite part about what I do is really just engaging people. It’s just fun. It’s like you’re playing
with the world around you. It’s really a way to bring
smiles to people’s faces and have fun doing it, and still, you know, make a living. I was really good at that
Operation game when I was a kid.

22 thoughts on “How This Artist Turned Traditional Sand Painting Into Street Art

  1. WTF! This is RANGOLI from India. Cultural appropriation without even mentioning the roots. Well done man, but we know you where you lift it from.

  2. Search the word Rangoli on google and then you'll get to know about the tradition from India that hasn't been mentioned in this video

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