José Luis González
Sculpting with Sand
Every day, José Luis González goes to the beach by the Malecon to work on his sand sculptures, as he has done every year since the winter of 2005, when he first visited Puerto Vallarta during a trip with a friend. He begins by filling rectangular wooden molds with a 10 cm layer of sand and some water, compacting the mix with a tamper. Using smaller graduated boxes, he builds a pyramid shape to the desired height. Finally, he removes the wood and begins to carve, using assorted hand tools to shape the sand, finally blowing the last excess grains off with a straw.
This creator of ephemeral art spends up to three weeks building the large-scale sculptures, which he keeps moist by spraying them with seawater every 20 minutes throughout the day. “I like it when they fall quickly, so I can make a new one. I see it as a process of transformation.” A native of Venezuela, Gonzalez had already sculpted in materials such as cement, stone, marble, clay and wax before learning about sand sculpting in a television documentary.
Over the past 12 years, González has created his sculptures on the beaches of Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Ecuador, Chile, Barbados and Honduras, among others. But his greatest accolade came when a Canadian tourist requested on his deathbed that his daughter bring his ashes to Vallarta so González could mix them with sand and include them in one of his sculptures. The sculptor humbly obliged with a replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta.