Jim Denevan performs drawings — making temporary sculptures on the sandy beaches of Northern California. Using only a stick and a rake, Denevan’s work is monumental in scale but as fleeting as any live performance. Spark tails Denevan in San Francisco and Santa Cruz as he composes two sand works and talks about his meditations and his process.
It was Denevan’s passion for surfing that led to his vision of the beach as a blank canvas. The shapes he fashions — spirals and other simple geometrics — are familiar, yet their scale and location are particular and proportions amazingly precise. The drawings exist for a few precious hours before they are erased by the incoming tides, and one has to view the drawings from 150 feet up or more in order to see them in their entirety.
Denevan considers process an integral part of his artwork and chooses his locations thoughtfully. In his mind, every step is a kind of temporary sculpture. Denevan then walks for miles, leading his chosen drawing stick in a dance performed to the music of the ocean and the spirit of the place. Denevan says, “My movement has a present. And then where I want to be, that’s the future. … Then the line has a past.”
Jim Denevan, who is also a chef, has received increasing attention in the past few years for both his art and his cooking. Denevan’s work was included in the “Big Deal” exhibition at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (January through April 2005), along with artists Scott Snibbe, Christopher Tagg and Johnston Foster. In addition, a feature-length documentary film about Denevan called “Sandman,” directed by award-winning director Chesley Chen, is slated to be released in late 2005.