A Texas Snow Sculpture for a Fish that Died
Albert Lucio honors his deceased betta during Snowmageddon 2021
By Wayne Alan Brenner,
2:30PM, Thu. Feb. 18, 2021
Never mind that crap about “when life gives you lemons.” When life gives you snow — snow at a level that’s never been experienced in Austin (and most of Texas) before – you make a snow sculpture.
Hell, you might’ve made a rudimentary snowperson yourself in the past few days, right, just for the sheer novelty of it?
But if you’re Albert Lucio, one half of that arcane Austin Seance duo, who also happens to be a professional sand sculptor, you go ahead and make an entire funerary tableau: A memorial to a dead pet fish, a memorial that features a realistic headstone atop an equally realistic plinth of stones and, hovering over the whole shebang, a robed and spectral figure that has no face where a face should be.
We’ve previously reported on Lucio’s Austin Seance gigs, yes, but little did we suspect that the man’s also a professional sand sculptor. Which is why he has the skills to work so effectively with that fluffy white stuff that fell from the big Texas sky this week.
So, hearing of this remarkable creation and the man who made it, your crack team of Austin Chronicle journos get in touch with him ASAP. And the first thing we need to know: “Professional sand sculptor? OK, dude, hold on. WTF does professional mean in this context?”
Lucio smiles, brightening the room like a suddenly materialized candle at a gathering of mystics. “I get invited to go and compete around the U.S.,” he tells us. “People fly me out to build giant sand sculptures, for both private and public events. In fact, Texas has one of the biggest sand events in the nation, and I’m one of the coordinators for that.”
Color us gobsmacked.
Sometimes you scratch a man who’s deeply into the American history of spiritualism and its trappings, and what you find is not, ew, an outpouring of ectoplasm … but a whole subculture of creative expression that boasts an economically thriving ecosystem.
(Note: We’ll be looking into this further, in a later issue. Brenner’s on it.)
And so but this fish memorial? What’s all that about?
“We had a betta that passed away about two months ago,” says Lucio. “We found it just kinda floating in its bowl. And we put it in a little matchbox and buried it out in the front yard. And then, when I was starting this snow sculpture, I thought, ‘Y’know, it’d be kind of funny – because nobody makes these grand memorials for a fish who’s passed away – usually they get unceremoniously thrown into the trash or flushed down the toilet – it’d be funny to have a big memorial for the little guy.’ This is the second time I’ve done snow – since this is the second time it’s snowed in Texas. So I just put my, ah, we call it a pound-up? That’s when you fill up your forms with, usually, sand and water. So I built up the basic forms, and then, when I started carving, I decided what I was gonna do.”
Which is: Create a frozen memorial for a dearly departed betta named Sir Francis.
And, look, we’re not suggesting anyone drive by Lucio’s house to see the thing – it’s still rather ice-and-slush dangerous out there right now, people – and maybe the art’s gone all melty, besides? – but we are posting this article with an image of the sculpture, as provided by Lucio’s partner-in-mysticism, Jake Cordero. We’re posting it by way of “possibly clearing the palate,” as Cordero put it, “of what otherwise has been some unrelenting grim news about Snowmageddon 2021.”
Damn right, brother. And a belated R.I.P. to you, Sir Francis.