They’d look like any other family on the beach playing in the sand, if it weren’t for their radiator-sized mister on wheels constantly spraying water on the three-foot sculpture of a teeming coral reef scene.
For “playing,” they look a bit more focused than the kids nearby with their green and yellow buckets and amorphous structures with moats. Of course, you’d also recognize the performance art domain of Riki and Tom Inzano by the ropes sectioning their area off from the rest of the Ka‘anapali Beach in front of the Westin.
A versatile and enthusiastic artist, Riki had been involved in several mediums—papier mache, acrylic murals, cast wax for jewelry—before she began sand sculpture 10 years ago at the Denver Zoo’s Ocean Journey exhibit. Tom soon got in on the act, having done some award-winning art himself in high school. They met seven years ago in Colorado, during a cardboard derby at Tom’s favorite ski resort.
“Riki had never skied a day in her life,” Tom said. “But we met for cocktails later that day. It was destiny.”
Later they got married on Maui, and the Inzanos vowed to return one day to pursue their sand whims. They continued their sculpturing, which was only temporarily halted when Riki became pregnant. Then last year they arrived with young toddler Ian in tow, and were immediately commissioned by the Sheraton in Ka‘anapali for an exhibit at the Maui Invitational, which then switched venues to the Westin, where they now hold court on Tuesdays for all-day sand creation clinics.
“We’re doing this so we can live on Maui and spend time together,” Riki said. “And I love to inspire kids. In no other medium can you have a finished sculpture in one day. I just cannot put the time into permanent artwork anymore.”
“Most people don’t get to see the process,” Tom said. “To see art happening. And it can be a real traffic builder, as far as special events go. People wanna come back to see the end result.”
Some sand sculptors use glue or lacquer to keep their structures intact. But the Inzanos want their art structurally solid and ecologically sound. They make it a point only to use water with the sand they’re forming.
“It’s harder,” Riki said. “And there’s not as much time. But we want to be conscientious of the reef.
“We took a leap of faith to be here. But once you decide to do something, and you’re passionate for the gift you do, the elements come together.”
Tom thinks beach performance artists, as opposed to other artists, are akin to the actors on Broadway versus movie actors, who have to wait three months to a year to find out if everyone likes their art or not.
“It’s very inspiring when you’re working your butt off and people walk up and say, ‘Whoa! What are you doing?’” Tom said. “It’s good to get an immediate reaction.”
But he considers Riki the primary artist in the family.
“I defer 90 percent to her,” he said. “Very rarely does a guy get to meet a woman and be completely in awe of her talent. I’ve seen her art. There’s no question she’s a lot better. She can teach you everything.”
“Aw! Thank you, baby,” Riki said. “He’s better in the kitchen though.”
Riki’s designs are influenced mainly by Hawaiian culture and marine life, and she is convinced there’s no shortage of inspiration here. After all, they’ve been doing it 26 weeks in a row and have never done the same sculpture twice. Just don’t ask them if they do sand castles.
“Basically, I like organic things,” Riki said. “No buildings. Or material objects, I’ll usually put a face on it—anything to inject a little personality or fun.”
“And anything with straight lines, she hands over to me,” Tom said, smiling.
“I like to be whimsical,” Riki said. “And to make people smile, ‘cause art’s emotional.”
Then a curious couple walked up to admire the Inzanos great feat of sand art. A small crowd gathered behind them, in awe of the mastery of the fine detritus of shoreline.
“Who gets to kick it down?” one guy said. He was smiling—his wife who elbowed him was not. MTW