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Sands of time and faith

Michael Augustin created this icon of Mary for the Feast of the Assumption, a day that signifies the virgin's passing into eternal life. The Assumption is the greatest of all Marian feasts and a holy day of obligation.1 / 2
Michael Augustin (right), sand painting artist, explains the minute detail he uses to create each work of art -- temporary though it may be. Father Thomas Kommers and parishoners of Church of St. Joseph listen during ceremonies Aug. 15. (Republican Eagle photos by Tim Alms)2 / 2

Red Wing native Michael Augustin has returned to create a new sand painting here, this time an icon of faith.

The Church of St. Joseph has a sand painting of Mary on display in the Holy Family Hall foyer through Sept. 8.

"We are grateful to artist Michael Augustin for creating such a unique and beautiful piece of art honoring Mary, the mother of Jesus," Father Thomas Kommers said in a statement.

While Augustin's work has been displayed in Red Wing before, no sand

painting is like another. This is the first time he's created a sand painting icon anywhere in Mary's honor.

He explained during a Feast of the Assumption ceremony Aug. 15 that he deliberately left her face blank because he wanted people to see themselves in her.

Augustin creates his unique images and designs using sand that is ground from minerals and rocks he gathers in the American Southwest.

The artist is known worldwide as a master practitioner of the ancient art of sand painting. He has created works for the United Nations, the Smithsonian and the Department of the Interior.

In 1989 during the Malta summit, he presented his work to visiting Soviet officials, who took the painting back to the Soviet Union as a symbol of common ground between the nations.

Inspired by his years living with the Navajo and Hopi tribes in northern Arizona, Augustin said he shares his intimate knowledge of the desert through sand paintings as visual translations of the human experience and the natural world.

Red Wing Arts Association displayed his works in the April exhibit "Sand Painting: Contemporary Perspective on an Ancient Tradition." Director Dan Guida called the show "amazing, beautiful and impressive." Response was so positive that RWAA extended that show.

The public is invited to view Augustin's one-of-a-kind piece of artwork between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturdays Aug. 24, 31 and Sept. 7. There is no cost to view the icon.

The closing ritual and dismantling of the sand painting will be at 10:15 a.m. Sunday Sept. 8.

Augustin and others will take the painting from the floor. They will lift the muslin cloth to allow the sand to intermingle. The sand is then returned to containers for recycling back to the earth.