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Lauren Pond

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Randy Hofman's Sand Art Communicates Biblical Messages (PHOTOS)

Posted: 08/02/2012 8:32 am

There are certain things you expect to see along Maryland's Ocean City Boardwalk during the summer: Children eating ice cream cones and funnel cake. Booze. Skimpy bikinis and sunburns.

But giant replicas of Noah's Ark and the Last Supper? Not so much.

As I walked along the roughly 2.5-mile stretch of hotels, restaurants and tacky gift shops last July, I was stunned to see Jesus' face protruding from a massive pile of sand. I later discovered that this biblical sand sculpture was the work of local artist and minister Randy Hofman, who creates about 15 such works every summer on the Ocean City beach near Second Street. I resolved that I would return in July 2012 to meet Hofman and photograph his creations.

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  • Artist Randy Hofman repairs one of his existing sand sculptures on the beach in Ocean City, Md., on July 17, 2012. Hofman has been making the giant biblical sand sculptures here since the 1980s. Once part of the advertising industry, he uses the sculptures to convey biblical messages to beachgoers and passers-by. Photo by Lauren Pond.

  • Artist Randy Hofman repairs his "Last Supper" sand sculpture on the beach in Ocean City, Md., on July 17, 2012. Photo by Lauren Pond.

  • Volunteers from a local ministry help artist Randy Hofman dismantle an existing biblical sand sculpture and shovel sand for a new one near the Ocean City Boardwalk in Maryland on July 17, 2012. Photo by Lauren Pond.

  • Shovels protrude from the sand against a horizon of umbrellas as artist Randy Hofman creates a new biblical sand sculpture on the beach in Ocean City, Md., on July 17, 2012. Photo by Lauren Pond.

  • Volunteers from a local ministry help artist Randy Hofman dismantle an existing biblical sand sculpture and shovel sand for a new one near the Ocean City Boardwalk in Maryland on July 17, 2012. Photo by Lauren Pond.

  • Artist Randy Hofman hoses down the pile of sand he would transform into his new "Noah and the Arc" sand sculpture later on July 17, 2012. Photo by Lauren Pond.

  • A beachgoer gawks at artist Randy Hofman's giant biblical sand sculptures along the Ocean City Boardwalk in Maryland on July 17, 2012. Photo by Lauren Pond.

  • Artist Randy Hofman heaves a bucket of watered-down Elmer's glue onto the back of his in-progress "Noah and the Ark" sand sculpture in Ocean City, Md., on July 17, 2012. The glue provides an eco-friendly way to help keep his sculptures in-tact. Photo by Lauren Pond.

  • Young visitors to the Ocean City Boardwalk in Maryland watch as local artist Randy Hofman creates his new "Noah and the Ark" sand sculpture on the beach late the afternoon of July 17, 2012. Including a lunch break, from start to finish, the sculpture took him about 14 hours to create. Photo by Lauren Pond.

  • With Noah's face prominent below him, Maryland artist Randy Hofman works on his sand sculpture of "Noah and the Ark" by the Ocean City Boardwalk in Maryland early the evening of July 17, 2012. Photo by Lauren Pond.

  • After about 14 hours of work, artist Randy Hofman's "Noah and the Ark" sand sculpture stands near completion by the Ocean City Boardwalk in Maryland late the evening of July 17, 2012. Illuminated by multicolored lights, Hofman's sculptures attract a lot of attention and large audiences of beachgoers. Photo by Lauren Pond.

"It touches people," said Hofman, describing his work to me as we cowered from the scorching summer heat on a shaded hotel porch. Hofman, 60, has been sculpting biblical scenes and messages in Ocean City since the 1980s, often with the help of volunteers from a local ministry. He learned the craft from another biblical sand sculptor, Marc Altamar, during the previous decade.

Raised Catholic, Hofman was once a part of the advertising industry in New York.

"It just didn't feel right, but coming down here to the beach and doing this Bible stuff, it's like God knew what the story was," he said. "So now I'm advertising the Lord."

Each giant sand sculpture requires an entire day of work. When I visited on July 17, Hofman and his volunteers began working at 8 a.m., and didn't finish until about 10:30 that evening. The new "Noah and the Ark" piece replaced an older sand sculpture of Jesus on the cross, and was one of three such sculptures on the beach.

Beachgoers were clearly captivated. As the heat dissipated, crowds clogged the wooden planks of the boardwalk. People took pictures, or just watched in awed silence.

Hofman adorns each of his sculptures with a succinct message. On the "Noah and the Ark" sculpture, it's "Last Call." He said he tries to keep the theology "simple and upbeat."

"A little candy makes the medicine go down," he said.

 

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