On a beach in Port Aransas, Texas, a sculpture of Abraham Lincoln shows him seated in anguish. With his head buried in his hand, he sits atop a crumbling monument. The scene is as poignant as it is awe-inspiring because Lincoln and his throne are crafted completely out of sand. Damon Langlois is the artist behind this sand sculpture and its incredible details that include the likeness of the 16th President and deep “cracks” in the seat base. The piece, called Liberty Crumbling, recently won first place in the 23rd annual Texas SandFest, the largest native sand sculpture competition in the U.S.
There’s no denying that the subject of Langlois’ reimagining of the Lincoln Memorial doesn’t comment on the current state of domestic and world affairs. He doesn’t intend for it, however, to have a certain political leaning. “It’s not really a partisan statement since it affects everyone who believes in freedom,” Langlois explains to My Modern Met. “I think this is why the sculpture had such broad appeal. No matter who you vote for you probably feel this in some way.”
Langlois spent four days working on Liberty Crumbling. “It took one full day to make ‘the pound-up,’ ” he describes, “which is sand compacted into wooden forms with lots and lots of water.” Those pieces are then carved away, and the removed sand reveals the sculpture. It’s no easy feat. “The time pressure is immense and I just barely finished the sculpture, working up until the last second!”
The road to creating Liberty Crumbling has been a long one. It started nearly 30 years ago when Langlois joined a competitive sand sculpture team called the SandBoxers; he considers it the official start of his sand sculpting journey. “Back then it [sand sculpting] was a much different scene,” he says. “Let’s just say there were a lot more shovelers than artists.” But as Langlois has continued to hone his craft, he can easily articulate why he loves it so much. “I enjoy its intense nature, both physically and mentally. It combines illusion, artistry, engineering, perseverance, and character.” On a larger scale, it’s also about living in the moment. “A sand sculptor accepts the ephemeral nature of their work and does it for the act of doing it,” he says. “Nothing is forever.”