Drawing a line in the sand

Local artist creates her own take on granular sculptures

Experimenting with sand is how Lesia Anna Bordynuik started creating her one-of-a-kind colourful sculptures.

“I’ve been doing artwork for just over 53 years, ever since I was 14, and every so often I’ll come up with different concepts,” she says, adding that she started off focusing on watercolour and acrylic paintings. Viewing sand mandalas made by Tibetan monks is one thing that inspired her to create her first piece in 2008.

“I’m also very familiar with sand art made by natives in the Southwest [United States] that’s just a single layer, almost like a painting,” Bordynuik says. “I was just fooling around and started adding more layers to my pieces to create more of a 3D effect so it’s built up more like a sculpture.”

Each one is made with Manitoba feldspar beach sand taken from Grindstone Provincial Park, which is part of Lake Winnipeg.

“I didn’t know exactly what it was until a Japanese scientist who was here for a geological seminar stopped by to check out my work,” she says. “She started screaming because apparently it’s a very rare feldspar sand since it does not contain quartz or silica.”

When finished, she coats her sculpture with a varnish that will apparently preserve it for 200 years, and places it inside a recycled shadowbox frame.

“I use organic watercolours to colour the sand and the preservative I use has very little chemicals or toxicity,” Bordynuik notes. “It’s very similar to the varnishes that would have been used during Michelangelo’s time.”

She says she keeps busy with her sand sculptures almost every day and works out of her studio in the Johnston Terminal at The Forks.

“My imagination makes it easy because I have lots of it and am always coming up with ideas,” she says. “I try to do as many as I can every day because they sell so fast. Smaller ones usually take me about six-and-a-half hours while the larger pieces can take four days.”

Canadian wildlife is a common theme. One of her polar bear sand sculptures was even gifted to Prince Charles when he was visiting Winnipeg earlier this year.

“The polar bear designs have continued to be very popular, probably because people associate polar bears with Manitoba and our zoo just opened up that [Journey to Churchill] exhibit,” she says.

Legends Bordynuik has heard from her Métis-Ojibwe husband are another inspiration and Spirit of Winter is one piece that brings them to life.

“When people look at this one they usually assume the spirit is the lady, but it’s not.  The wolf is known as the spirit of winter in that culture,” she says.

For the rest of October, she’s displaying numerous sand sculptures for people to view through an exhibit she’s calling Organic Art.

Prices range between $45 to $395 if you want to take one home with you.

“Not everyone knows you can make this type of art with sand, but any medium can be used and I hope these might inspire some young artists to create and follow what’s inside.”

Published in Volume 69, Number 7 of The Uniter (October 15, 2014)

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