The Sands Of Time
Scott Dosch creates stunning seaside sculptures that are literally here today, gone tomorrow.
Thursday, December 21, 2000
Scott Dosch stands on the sand at the bottom of Carmel''s Ocean Avenue passing around a plastic bucket as gawking tourists scramble through their pockets and purses for dollar bills. "Please support the arts, folks," he says. "Tips appreciated for your photos. Thank you very much!"
Reclining next to Dosch are two half-naked ladies. At second glance, make that two half-naked mermaids. He refreshes them with a water squirt from a spray bottle and adjusts the sunglasses on one of the life-size sand sculptures.
As the crowd thins, Dosch takes a drag off a Camel Light and squats in the sand to play with his two children, 3-year-old Dylan Marie and toddler William "Brother." The kids know that their shovels and buckets must steer clear of Daddy''s work. Dosch''s wife, Melissa Spencer, assists in the building of the sculptures and keeps the kids entertained while the artist chats up the public. "I was the first person in America to do daily sand sculptures for tips," he claims, showing off his impressive portfolio of intricately detailed, three-dimensional art.
Dosch changes the sculptures daily. He arrives at the beach almost every morning to find his work--about five hours per sculpture--destroyed. "Half the time, people will vandalize while I''m still standing there. They''ll come up and knock the head off one of the mermaids," he says, incredulous. "I could get really upset about it. But I don''t react at all--unless I''m pushed to sarcasm."
Dosch sees other sand sculptors enjoying the protection of barriers around their projects, but that level of security is not for him. "I wouldn''t want to do anything with a fence that would change the ambiance of this venue," he says, pointing to the admiring fans gathered about his creations. "The tradeoff is OK with me."
A self-described "California folk artist" who speaks four languages, Dosch arrived at his career calling after wandering a path that lead him through five years in the Christian ministry and a stint as a salesperson. Cutting his hair and removing his earrings didn''t jibe well with the free-spirited personality he developed as an army brat ensconced in Europe.
"I hated that whole thing--being the cog. I just hated it," Dosch says. "In 1986, I basically moved into a van on Venice Beach. And it just hit me one night to do sand sculptures."
Dosch''s art is so realistic that an elderly lady ran screaming from one of his first attempts at sculpting a woman, alerting the police that she thought she had witnessed a murder. "The next day, I had instant notoriety," he chuckles.
After dealing with LAPD harassment for concocting sand sculptures on the boardwalk, Dosch got a chance to turn the Hollywood spotlight on his art. He landed gigs creating a background for a scene in Oliver Stone''s The Doors and lending atmosphere to a larger-than-life Nike commercial.
In 1994, Dosch and his apprentice split LA (for what he calls "personal reasons") and drove up the California coast. Dosch dropped his sidekick off in Big Sur and ended up in San Francisco. But after a month, he headed down to Carmel. "I drove down to the Central Coast and fell in love with it," he says. "I saw my apprentice was working in Carmel and I told him to hit the road. I have a deal with people I teach: If we find each other on the same beach someday, they have to defer. He honored that and went to Half Moon Bay."
After about a year in Carmel, Dosch met wife Melissa, a jewelry designer, and found true love and a fellow artist to help with his sculptures. The two took to the pavement, traveling all over the country, including Hawaii and British Colombia, in search of sand castle competitions. In Virginia, on the recommendation of a master sculptor, Dosch entered his first closed contest. He placed second.
While in Hawaii, a tourist admiring Dosch''s work had him sculpt cement busts of her children. In Cape Cod, Dosch experimented with snow sculpture after arriving to a snowstorm. He also scored a few private commissions there, including a garden border that featured a 45-foot-long cement snake inlaid with Czechoslovakian glass beads. A local store owner had Dosch design and build a "cave" in his shop, complete with veins of gold, lapis and stalagmites.
Dosch''s art often taps directly into the heart. At last year''s Concours D''Elegance, he donated a giant sand sculpture of a 1957 Thunderbird to benefit the United Way. The sculpture collapsed after 32 hours of work, but he aims to repeat it next year.
Eyes on the Prize
On Venice Beach, Dosch sculpted figures representing international tragedies. Disarmament in the New World Order depicted a boy colored in red paint with his arms blown off after picking up a bomb. "During the Russian/Afghani conflict the Russians dropped butterfly bombs to look like toys to disarm the future generation of rebels," Dosch says.
"I also did a piece the day before we went into the Gulf War. It wasn''t an anti-war piece, but I really wanted to get some discussion going. I had a soldier facing down who had just been shot, and out of his hand had fallen a picture of his family. All kinds of people were talking--a mother to her daughter, and Vietnam vets talking to 18-year-old kids. That was probably the most fulfilling day I''ve had sculpting," he says.
"Here in Carmel, I''ve lightened up," he laughs. "I go for the technique instead of the message."
Dosch would like to branch out into more painting and private commissions, which he hasn''t done much of since returning to Carmel. He wants to paint a mural of a redwood grove on the back of Katy''s Place, a popular Carmel eatery. Alain Pinel Realty and the building''s owner have given their permission and sponsorship, but the Carmel Planning Commission has been mulling over approving the mural for eight months now. "It''s pretty conservative around here," Dosch says of his battle with planners. "If it ain''t broke, don''t fix it. But it''s been so long, they don''t know what''s broke and what should be fixed."
Now that he''s got a family of four to support, Dosch hopes to abandon his daily sculpting for tips and expand his art. "I would love to do a coffee table book on sand sculptures and have a gallery that has photographs of sand sculptures and one going on in the middle of the gallery," he enthuses. "I am looking desperately for corporate sponsorship to do next year''s circuit. It''s too much of a strain to do all of the things I want to be doing and fund my way through the contests I know I can do well at."
Dosch placed second at this year''s US Open Sand Sculpting Contest in San Diego, and that reinforced his commitment. "I will go back every year," he says, "until I take first prize."