Andrew Clemens (1857-1894) was an artist from Dubuque, Iowa but spent most of his life in nearby McGregor. At the age of five Clemens was stricken with encephalitis that left him completely deaf and nearly mute.
At age 13 Clemens began experimenting with sand art, collecting multicolored sands from Iowa’s Pictured Rocks region. He fashioned special tools made from pieces of hickory and fish hooks that he used to arrange the sand in intricate designs. Clemens did not use glue in his artwork, relying on the pressure of the tightly packed surrounding grains to keep his artworks intact. Once an artwork was complete, Clemens would back the jar tightly and seal it.
Clemens had a remarkable ability to break down images and render it grain by grain with each piece of sand akin to a pixel of a digital image. He is thought to have produced hundreds of bottles during his lifetime but few survive today.
To see more of Andrew Clemen’s fantastic artwork, there’s a Facebook page with a nice collection of images. There is also a list of 23 artworks (with descriptions and images) that were sold through Cowan’s Auctions that can be viewed here.
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