Quote and Credit

Quote and Credit


Sand Sculptures of Atlantic City Seaside Sand Sculpture without Snookie or the Situation

Working with sand! Sand Sculpture where I live is done with your toes and with every step, but the REAL art flourished in Atlantic City in the late 19th century. Talented artists began creating temporary statues and, as shown here, relief sculptures for passing boardwalk visitors.

They always had a purpose other than mere beauty. Some were commissioned by boardwalk businesses as advertising, others were sponsored by local fraternal organizations. There were independent artists as well, they worked for tips...but like all boardwalk "artists" many were con men. I don't know how you can pick the pocket of a fellow bending over to look at your sand sculpture when he is wearing bathing trunks, but it happened, and the practice of drawing crowds to sand art was outlawed in 1944.

Some artists worked close enough to the boardwalk to catch coins tossed by the strolling masses, early versions of "The Situation" and drunken shore slut "Snookie" (both who actually hang a few miles north at Seaside Heights, once one of my favorite places to escape from New York City for a weekend.) The only sculptures up there are The Situation's sculpted abdominal muscles.

Some would work on commission and create a sculpture of a paying customer. Many of the artists were African-American. Although not too well known, the Clarion magazine, (published by the American Folk Art Museum) describes Black artists working on the beach in a 1992 article, and as I recall, documenting an instance of an African-American artist being "lightened up" for a postcard.

For the silica masterpieces shown here, sand was densely packed into a box surrounded by 2 x 4 wood section and shaped with sticks and trowels. The sand surrounding the work was then painted black.
I have found no less than two dozen postcards depicting the artists and their work, most dating to around 1910 (including one dated 1911 showing this very group of sculptures) but this is the only actual photograph I have seen. It dates to 1910 or so as well, I have seen the same group of works shown in a magazine around that time. As you can see, the artist added a few more works before the picture was taken for the postcard. Maybe they lugged them under the boardwalk when it rained.
Original Vernacular photograph of Atlantic City Sand Sculptures, circa 1910 collection Jim Linderman


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