By this point, most anyone involved in surfing has attended some sort of surf art function. It’s usually something fun, like 29 dudes in flip flops casually gathering in a surf shop or beach town gallery to support a handful of grassroots local surfer/artists. There’s usually some colorful work, story talking, references with ocean experience, …and some cheap beer.
In the last few years, art generated from the surf world has risen above these local soirees. Events like the Moonshine Festival, Beautiful Losers, Surfrider’s Art for Oceans, as well as more mainstream artists’ interest in surf, have transcended the imagery and sound of our culture to the global easel. A big part of this movement has been the Happening, a juxtaposition of surfers’ visual art, music, and film.
“I wouldn’t even label the work at The Happening as ‘Surf Art.’ It’s art made by people who are connected to surfing and skateboarding in some way,” said Mark Tesi, artist, musician, and Art Director for Virgin Mobile, who helped to bring the Happening to NYC, “Although a majority of the artists in The Happening are based in California, at the end of the day the event is really about bringing together the brightest and most influential creatives from around the world who all share a loose common thread – surfing.”
On Friday night, surf art was received in the one of the world’s great cultural centers. And while surfing and NYC might seem a strange coupling, those who know are aware that the Big Apple has embraced surf culture. And, in fact, the occasional glory of nearby Queens and Long Island beachbreaks have been highlighted to the world in recent years. There were plenty of core waveriders, many who’d gotten some leftover south swell earlier on Friday, mixing in with the models, skaters, metrosexuals, and hipsters at the Milk Gallery, in Chelsea.
“New York and California are such different backdrops,” said Ray Barbee, pro skater/musician, from San Jose, California, “New York is grittier, darker, colder. It’s the birthplace of hip hop, whereas California is the birthplace of the surf and skate culture. They are different types of subcultures, but this event is a common ground.”
While the Happening featured such notable surf artists as Joe Curren, Herbie Fletcher, Thomas Campbell, and Andrew Kidman, it was also a fitting celebration for Northeast natives Scott Soens, Jason Murray, and Julie Goldstein, of New Jersey, Alex Weinstein, from Rhode Island, Dylan Griffin, Michael Halsband, Greg LaMarche, Angela Boatwright all from NYC.
“Now, more than ever, it so important for a group that has such a deep connection to our natural world to have their voice heard. Just look at Alex Weinstein’s intense studies of the ocean’s ever changing moods or Julie Goldstein’s woodcut portrayals of strong, independent, sea-chiseled women. I think there’s a lot to be learned from people who have the ocean flowing through them. Surfing permeates popular culture, sometimes right on the surface, other times it’s deeper down. Rarely though, is it presented in it’s native tongue – from the mouths it’s participants,” added Tesi.
Barbee, a jazz convert, performed with the Mattson 2, as the swelling crowd swilled cans of PBR. As the Milk Gallery began to exceed it’s maximum occupancy, the crowd shuffled around the block to the Hiro Ballroom to catch performances by Matt Costa and Mason Jennings and films by the Malloys, as well as Sliding Liberia, by Britton Caillouette and Nicholai Lidow.
Surfing may have reached the epicenter, but for all involved, the inspiration still comes from riding waves on quiet beaches. And the cheap beer tradition will always endure.
For more info go to thehappeninglive.com