Sand artist Kseniya Siminova, MLHS wind ensemble bring down the house

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Emry Dinman/Columbia Basin Herald Ukrainian artist Kseniya Siminova weaves stories in sand, accompanied by the Moses Lake High School wind ensemble.

MOSES LAKE — As the lights went down in the Moses Lake High School auditorium Saturday night, the face of Ukrainian sand artist Kseniya Siminova was illuminated by a backlight beneath a glass table covered in sand.

With the music beginning to swell, Siminova brushed sand away from the light beneath to reveal the image of a woman lying in a field of lavender, as a projector cast the shadow puppetry onto the wall behind her. With a wave of Siminova’s hand, the woman melts away, only to be reformed clutching her son as a young man.

The champion sand artist, who has performed for royalty and presidents from around the world and captivated audiences in several of the prolific “Got Talent” shows, graced Moses Lake High School Saturday night as a side stop from a Richland performance commemorating the 75th anniversary of Hanford and its role in the Manhattan Project.

Siminova’s art is impermanent, both in form and substance, as she weaves stories of love and family with shifting sands. The sand is less paint than canvas, and faces and scenes appear where the grains are pushed away to let the backlight shine through, before adding or wiping away sand to repaint an entire scene or just to lift a character’s eyes.

Siminova’s introduction to the unorthodox art form came shortly after the 2008 global financial crisis caused her and her boyfriend’s fledgling magazine to collapse. As she recounts it, Siminova could barely find the motivation to pry herself from the couch until her boyfriend wheeled in a glass table and dumped a bag of sand at her feet.

Only months later, Siminova was competing on stage at the televised talent show “Ukraine’s Got Talent,” which she won, to her great surprise. Since then, Siminova has gone on to compete in “America’s Got Talent,” “Britain’s Got Talent,” and in the closing ceremony in Athens for the Special Olympics, to name only a few of the prolific artist’s credits.

With nothing but a glass table, a strong backlight, a projector and river sand, the world-renowned artist tells tales of lovers separated by war and reunited after the birth of a child, or of a daughter that fights childhood cancer with her mother by her side, or star-crossed lovers worlds apart.

Perhaps the most moving story of the night for the audience, which filled the Moses Lake High School auditorium, was the presentation of an extended version of a piece called “Don’t Be Too Late.” Siminova wipes sand away from the glass to paint a pregnant woman in repose, as a man cradles her belly, which Siminova reshapes into the image of a newborn babe. The family holds each other closely.

But, as time goes on, denoted with the sound of a ticking clock to which Siminova has paced her piece, the babe grows into a man who hopes to raise a family of his own. The man is so distracted by his ambitions and the humdrum of life that he fails to reconnect with his parents.

As the son ignores his father’s call, the phone ringing to no avail, the woman who carried him to term passes away. By the time the son realizes what he has lost, it is too late — the exact result that Siminova is warning her audience against, as she reminds them of the tenderness and vulnerability of parenthood.

As the story ended, a baby cried out in the theater, unaware of its poignant interruption. There were few dry eyes in the theater as Siminova took her last bow of the night.

Siminova’s performance was preceded by a rousing program by the Moses Lake High School Wind Ensemble, conducted by Director Dan Beich. Only six days into the school year, the ensemble played through four songs, culminating in the winding and majestic song “God of Our Fathers” by Claude Smith.

With such little time for preparations, Beich praised his students’ perseverance to achieve the high quality of performance they delivered Saturday night.

“The time frame was very compressed, and I’m really proud of how professionally they operated,” Beich said.

Emry Dinman can be reached via email at edinman@columbiabasinherald.com.

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