In the heart of the Atacama Desert in Chile, next to a Pan-American railway, a giant hand stands at about eleven meters above the sandy soil. Actually, only the fingers and a part of the hand are visible; the wrist and the arm are buried in the sand, giving us an idea of the colossal size of the rest of the body they belong to. But it's just an illusion. It is only the monumental sculpture by Chilean artist Mário Irarrázabal made out of concrete and steel, much like a building, that has been there since 1992. Furthermore, this work of art is not an isolated instance.
In the summer of 1982, in the Uruguayan city of Punta del Este, an outdoor sculpture workshop was held. Several artists took part in the event, among them, a young Chilean artist called Mário Irarrázabal, who chose the beach to build his work of art, unlike his peers, that preferred to develop their work in the city. The place inspired the sculptor, who designed and built, in only six days, a colossal sculpture representing the fingers in a hand of someone drowning. Irarrázabal used mostly concrete, strengthening the structure with steel rods and a metallic net and coating it with a corrosion-proof plastic.
The expressiveness of his achievement was such that it was instantly named The Monument to the Drowned, or simply, La Mano (The Hand), and it remains in the same place to this day, while other sculptures have been forgotten. But its impact was furthered when the sculptor made copies of the hand to place in other places in the world, such as Madrid and Venice. In 1992 e made another copy, this time to place in his homeland, Chile. That is the colossal hand we can see in the Atacama Desert and the one that the desert sands make so disturbing.
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