Sand Painter

Detail from Mochong, a sand painting by Rota artist, Jun Toves.
Photo by W.L. Doromal ©2008

April 17, 2008

When I was on Rota last July, I visited my friends, Jun and Carmen Toves and their wonderful children and grandchildren at their home in Sinapalu. Jun was sitting at a picnic table outside their house working on a sand painting. His work is very detailed. It takes many hours to create one painting.

Jun (Albert)Toves is one of my favorite artists. Yesterday's Marianas Variety announced he'll be participating in the 27th Flame Tree Arts Festival which will take place at the Susupe Civic Center on Saipan from April 24th to 27th. You should go see his work, and if you have some money saved, you should invest in a piece of his art!

A partially completed sand painting by artist Albert (Jun) Toves.
photo by W. L. Doromal ©2008

Jun sifts sand and expertly applies it to board with Elmer's glue building up layer upon layer. Then he uses sharp tools to etch the sand away to create a three-dimensional surface which he dyes in soft water color shades. His art features island-themed designs. Last summer I saw some of Jun's paintings depicting Rota's Wedding Cake Mountain, floral designs, and a fruit bat.

This gorgeous sand painting by Jun depicts Mochong a well-known latte site, on Rota.
Photo by Wendy L. Doromal ©2008

Sand painting is a relatively rare art form, and Jun is the only sand painter in the CNMI. In Tibet, Buddhist lamas create sand painted mandalas. Usually these sand painting are destroyed in a ritual meant to symbolize the impermanence of all things. Navajo and Pueblo Indians also use sand painting in healing rituals.

Jun is also known for his mosaics and shell art.

This year the art festival's theme is "Showcase our Inheritance.” The Variety article said that other Rotanese will be participating in the festival demonstrating making herbal medicine and making sea salt to highlight the Chamorro culture.

With all of the talented visual and performing artists in the CNMI, it seems that a cultural center highlighting their work would be a huge draw for tourists.

Here's a different kind of sand painting with one of my favorite songs!