Painting with sand

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Red Wing native Michael Augustin has been practicing the art of sand painting for nearly thirty years. While Augustin himself is not Native American he studied with Hopi and Navajo medicine men for five years.

“It was so fascinating to me and I saw a means of perhaps to dabble in it myself not as they do but as an expression of art. So I lifted it out of their tradition – any spiritual attachment I may make to it is my own. My purpose has never been to do an expose on sand painting and Native Americans. I look at the art as something that is mine.”

Augustin grinds the sand himself, and uses very simple tools to execute his paintings. “Your hands are your paintbrush,” he said in a recent phone conversation.

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Augustin’s usually asked to do a sand painting in conjunction with an event such as a seminar or conference. Once the work is done, he dismantles it. But in an unusual turn, Augustin has created a series of paintings which are on display at River Falls Public Library through September 4th.

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While Augustin describes himself as a lover of computers and technology, you will have a hard time finding much information about him on the web. In fact, the images on this blog may be the only ones you find. He has purposely avoided creating a website, because, he says, his work is more about a certain time and place than about a lasting image.

In fact Augustin complains that people have become too dependent on technology as a sort of external memory storage, so that they don’t take the time to truly study what’s in front of them. He says if you find something beautiful, “Use your mind – hold it for a while.”

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Michael Augustin will give a free formal presentation, with a demonstration and talk on the spiritual significance of his paintings tomorrow (Thursday, August 20) at 7 p.m. in the River Falls Public Library’s lower level community room.

Images courtesy of River Falls Public Library

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