First Friday Santa Cruz

Flowers in the Sand

Flowers in the Sand

by Bree Karpavage

Walking along the cliffs above Panther beach, Brighton Denevan’s sand mandala stands out with an almost ancient energy. What appears to be mounds of sand in a circle, is actually a carefully thought out work of art, circles and radiating lines in the sand with a masterful symmetry. This timeless practice of creating with circles was constructed with full awareness of its impermanence, as a fleeting creation in the sand, a tease for the waves who long to touch it and a wonder for the random hiker on a beautiful January day.

From 150 feet above the “Sandflower,” Brighton’s drone shows the true picture of what he’s created…a spectacular overhead sight of a massive, sculpted, symmetrical pattern, a beautiful flower in the sand. A flower that took 45 hours of digging, carving and sand shifting to create.

“Sandflower” Art & Photo by Brighton Denevan

Sometimes just using his keen eye and sometimes with more precise measurements, Brighton’s massive concentric circle sand art is inspired by his years growing up on the beach and drawing in the sand with his dad. He’s created hundreds of massive line drawings in the sand over the years, including a run in 2020 of drawing in the sand for 31 days straight. But it wasn’t until four years ago that he constructed his first large sand mandala with his dad, Jim at the Santa Monica Pier. Their obsession with sand inspired the father/son team to join forces again late last year and collaborate on another piece at Sunny Cove Beach here in Santa Cruz. This design was led by this father, but Brighton developed the final addition, the element of fire.

Fire or light he says is the most fascinating aspect of his work. The sun’s play with shadow at different times of the day and the fire at night create different moods within the design. Brighton frequents his art in the days and weeks following his builds to document shadows and the natural transformation and fade as nature takes its course with his drone camera. At night, he plays with fire and solar lights to capture his pieces in an awe inspiring form, recently burning 25 Christmas trees in the center of a 200 ft diametric creation. He describes the feeling of seeing his art lit up at night as “ecstatic.” Playing with light he says is an always evolving part of his work.

“Sandflower” at night illuminated with solar lights. Art & Photo by Brighton Denevan

While drawing in the sand is something Brighton has played with since he was a child, playing with drones came much later. Drawn to views from above, Brighton taught himself to fly his first drone to capture his dad’s event, Outstanding in the Field. Now, five years later, he makes his living with his drone photography & videography working to capture farm tours, real estate, music events, wildlife and his artwork from the sky.

The sky isn’t the limit for this young, inspired artist. Working alongside his dad and a team of 25 artists, Brighton is taking his art to international sand in Saudi Arabia. He expects this commissioned piece to be more than 500 ft in diameter and says the backdrop will be ancient petroglyphs in a canyon sandwiched between cities. His work on the Panther Beach Sandflower is practice he says for projects like this.

Brighton’s other projects include coordinating Art Meet Up Santa Cruz, a collaborative gathering of artists seeking community through art. He can also often be spotted on Main Beach drawing and building in the sand, a place where the waves quickly swallow his creations within hours. For Brighton Denevan the sand is a never ending canvas of inspiration that he just can’t get enough of. Just as the waves clear it, he circles back to create again. 

On IG: @brighton.aerial

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