THE SAND came in the Rabbit. "We had 350 pounds of it," said sculptor Erin Hoover. "We had to talk some people into helping us move it into the building."

Hoover was finishing up her installation in Window No. 13 of the Lansburgh Cultural Center at 8th and E streets. It is called "Scratch the Surface," and it will be around through February.

Clearly, this is no ordinary environment. It has a huge papier-ma che' crown, floating picture frames bedizened with jewels, strips of wallpaper covered with what she calls her personal sign language, curious curved objects (even she isn't quite sure what they mean) and the sand.

The sand is on the floor, and it is white. It gleams in the light. The whole window gleams, in fact, a shimmering shape in the night.

"The bag people like us a lot," said Hoover, who was working with a friend, Amy Eller, who graduated from Bennington College in 1980, a year earlier than she. They plan to collaborate on another window piece soon, possibly right there in good old No. 13.

Hoover experimented with large pieces at college, working up to a papier-ma che' construction 16 feet square before she decided to try small for awhile. She likes the sparkly, glitzy stuff she puts on her painted surfaces, and also the villa effect, achieved by rubbing paint onto windows with steel wool.

"It's so nice to work with something as light as this, not like steel. Bennington is very big on steel. All those cranes. You have to get someone to help you whenever you need to move your work."

About that personal sign language: It is a free-form language of lovely wild curls and shapes, filling the space in the window with a sense of lightness.

She painted it in her apartment here before bringing it all down in the Rabbit. The window space rents for $80 a month, which is one reason why she lives here and not in New York.

"There just aren't places in New York for young unknown artists to show their work," she said. Eller, who lives in New York, agreed. She majored in theater design, Hoover in sculpture and painting.

"My teacher said I'd go through a period where I'd make a lot of bad art. But this is something else. I thought I was insane when I was putting this stuff together. But it works. It's a wonderful space."

She is fascinated by kitsch and what she calls schloppism, which are all around us. She wanted to take that vacant space behind the window and make it sing. Make it live for awhile. Which it does