Sand Mandalas as Art–Sonoma Style

Sand Mandalas as Art–Sonoma Style

In keeping with the  SLOW trend I recently saw a facebook post on Joe Mangrum, a New York artist and alumnus of the Art Institute of Chicago.  He has created a Kick Start program to raise money to bring his temporary street installations of sand mandalas (a slow and patient art form ) to a wider audience through large scale photography.  Since his mandala installations are large, this seems only logical to me.  With his kickstart program he hopes to raise $8,450 to purchase a wide angle lens and printer that will allow him to blow his images up in fine detail to the size of a bill board!  I say, go Joe.  His sand art is stunningly beautiful and while I appreciate the “impermanence” reference to life in sand art, I would love to be able to study these intricate, colorful and simply beautiful shapes over a period of time.  Being able to take photographs of his work would allow this to happen.   

Because of my yoga background and meditation practice I have always had a fascination with mandalas, and the sand mandalas often found at the entry of sacred places around the world, in particular.  The word “mandala” is from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit. Loosely translated to mean “circle,” a mandala is far more than a simple shape. It represents wholeness, and can be seen as a model for the organizational structure of life itself–a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to the infinite, the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds. The mandala pattern is used in many religious traditions. Hildegard von Bingen, a Christian nun in the 12th century, created many beautiful mandalas to express her visions and beliefs.  In the Americas, Indians have created medicine wheels and sand mandalas.  Tibetan Monks often create mandalas that are highly intricate illustrations of religious significance, and that are used for meditation.  Both Navajo Indians and Tibetan monks create sand mandalas to demonstrate the impermanence of life. In ancient Tibet, as part of a spiritual practice, monks created their mandalas with colored sand made of crushed semiprecious stones. The tradition continues to this day as the monks travel to different cultures around the world to create sand mandalas and educate people about the culture of Tibet.

The creation of a sand mandala requires many hours and days to complete. Each mandala contains many symbols that must be perfectly reproduced each time the mandala is created. When finished, the monks gather in a colorful ceremony, chanting in deep tones as they sweep their mandala into a jar and empty it into a nearby body of water as a blessing. This action also symbolizes the cycle of life.  Joe’s sand art mandalas are both spiritual and psychedelic at the same time.  I invite you to take a look at a speed film of just one of his installations.  The patience, time and artistry that goes into each and every one is mind blowing.  They are definitely Little Bits of Beauty™

…check out his kickstarter program and perhaps help him to bring his art to a new form!

The video below is short and definitely worth the watch…go Joe!




  1. Tehra Braten 12 years ago

    Love this! Please keep us posted on this project! Love the idea of billboards with photos of mandalas – their message. Patience for sure, non-attachment, creativity, generosity, presence, and of course beauty…. thank you!

  2. Vicki Benham 12 years ago

    There is such beauty in patience. It is this kind of practice and slowing down that we need to remember in this face paced world. Thank you for the reminder. B-r-e-a-t-h-e…

  3. Judy Stone-Goldman 12 years ago

    I stumbled on this project previously and am happy to be reminded of it here. What a wonderful illustration of patience, and what moving slowly can bring to our lives. I have a lot to learn about impermanence. Thanks for writing about this art form and culture.

  4. Hope Desroches 12 years ago

    Beautiful. I love the way you described the madala.

  5. Taru Fisher 12 years ago

    This beautiful work brought me to tears; it is infinitely moving to see what one human being can do to create a work of such stunning beauty. And, coincidentally, i have been writing about slowing down and transformation, and I and my husband are completing a jigsaw puzzle of a mandala! Joe could have jigsaw puzzles made from the photographs and sell them and make more money for his project. Thanks for sharing this!

  6. Michael Cavitt 12 years ago

    Wow! Thanks for sharing Joe’s work. The video is a meditation piece by itself.

  7. Oh man- that just blows me away. I so admire people who have the patience and dedication and beliefs and skill to work like that. True beauty.

    Reminded me of the story a few years ago of the traveling monks who had spent 2 days building their mandala and were about 1/2 through in some city here in US. A 2 year old kid sees the colored sand and goes under the rope and jumps all around in the sand. The monks returned the next day and just said they’d have to work harder to finish on time. No judgement. No condemnation-nothing. Just we have to work harder! Wow…

    Thanks for the beautiful reminder of life and mandalas.

    Candace Davenport ~ Little Books with a Big Message. Let us show you how you can have your own little book!

  8. KathyAlice 12 years ago

    I loved this video. It’s short (I hate long videos), but attention getting … produced nicely with great visuals and music. and my favorite .. no talking head. Nice promo for an obviously talented artist.

  9. Donna McCord 12 years ago

    Incredible! I can only be in awe of such skill and dedication and beauty. In my mind, it is just another proof of the words in the Bible that tell us we are made in God’s image — we share in His attributes, as demonstrated by the creativity of this artist.

  10. Darcie Newton 12 years ago

    Wow! There are two artists in that video. The man that crated the mandala and the man/woman that created the video. Both are stunning and communicate a deep understanding of their art. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Jean Bentley 12 years ago

    Amazing and beautiful! He needs a camera! With work like it should be preserved!

  12. Caitlin Knight 12 years ago

    That video is positively breathtaking! Kudos to Joe Mangrum. I see he’s more than halfway to his goal with 6 days to go. Way to be a go-giver and spread the word on your blog!

  13. Such stunning, intricate work… as a less-than-detail oriented person, I am amazed at the precision and patience it takes to create these gorgeous mandalas.
    Thanks for the introduction to the artist and his cause.

  14. Bill Browning 12 years ago

    This is amazing. I have only seen them done on a small scale. Thanks

  15. Jennifer Bourn 12 years ago

    WOW! This video is amazing … what a talent and amazing gift to create such meaningful beauty. It is stunning. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Pat Zahn 12 years ago

    First let me say how beautiful that was and 2nd I admire the patience. I can just imagine myself doing that, leaning or falling out of my crouch and accidentally messing up the design, using 6 levels of colorful language and then when it is finally completed, watching it be wiped away – that would wound me deeply…I’m obviously not the person to create sand mandalas! Thanks for sharing a bit of beauty this week, Irene.

  17. Ann Evanston 12 years ago

    Irene, yes absolutely beautiful, what’s interesting is that I thought differently as I read this. Decorating my home or office requires the same patience to truly create the beauty I desire. I think that is true of many things in life, true beauty comes from the patience to have what you desire.

    Ann Evanston
    Find YOUR Real Edge

    • Author
      Irene Turner 11 years ago

      Well said Ann, and true beauty also comes over time, doesn’t it? As with us humans.
      PS, am loving how your office is coming along with those fabulous red walls that are so you.

  18. Jennifer Duchene 12 years ago

    What a great tribute to an art form that really only exists for a short time. Sand that blows away, beauty the flies in the wind. Truly incredible work, which requires the highest form of understanding. Total immersion, total awe, complete big picture. Removes the ego, fulfills the soul. and maybe people get to understand how much goes into creating little bits of beauty! Truly incredibly gorgeous. What a gift Irene, you have shared.

    Jen Duchene
    Lift Your Spirits Home Transformations
    The Home Makeover Mixtress blending cool & cozy style.

  19. joe 12 years ago

    Wow just caught this thanks Irene!
    If anyone would like to geta live feed I’m on several social networks and FB and Twitter… find me there!
    alos these large prints are soon tocome and will be in limited editions. I also make permanent works in other mediums. If interested please give a shout!

    • Author
      Irene Turner 11 years ago

      Thanks for your art JOE. It is simply stunning. Keep us posted when you get those large prints. I can see using them in interior design projects as large murals on walls or even on ceilings. LOVE your work. Thanks for sharing with the world


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