All hands on deck at skateboard art showcase

by Jordan Green

|| @JordanGreenYES

Skateboards have provided a canvas for art since at least since the 1980s. An iconoclastic sport known for gravity-defying feats of daring, speed and occasional run-ins with vehicular traffic and the law, skateboarding has leant itself naturally to a badass aesthetic of gore, fleshy sexpots, sci-fi adventure and the allure of sin.

Like tattooing, skateboard art can be highly personalized and is often closely tied to a lifestyle.

So when Joseph Wilkerson III, the proprietor of Uptown Artworks in Greensboro, provided 45 unfinished, bulkordered skateboard decks and invited regional artists to paint on them, it was an open question as to whether they would build on the genre or spin the initiative off in totally new and unexpected directions.

A little of both, as it turns out, which makes sense considering that Wilkerson reached out to both tattooists and fine artists.

The dimensions of a typical deck — about 7 inches by 28 inches — imposes a parameter on the exercise that appears to have challenged each artist while providing a platform for highly individualized expression. The elongated format encourages a streamlined aesthetic, similar to the format provided by a forearm or torso for tattooing.

Art Deck’O Nouveau, which opened at Uptown Artworks on Sunday, featured plenty of skulls in various ghoulish presentations and color schemes, but also portraiture, as with Phil Young’s depiction of Jimi Hendrix in “Kiss the Sky,” and erotica, such as Cheryl Ann Lipstreu’s statuesque and bejeweled “The Lady of the Board.” Abandoning the typical skateboard art motif, Matt Zales’ “NYC View From Hoboken” nos. 1 and 2 turns the deck sideways to provide naturalistic landscapes depicting the city’s skyline and harbor.

And literally breaking the convention, Kenny Blair’s “NC Love Clock” reassembles the two opposing pieces of a broken deck in a heart shape, adding to the center a clock made from a North Carolina license plate stamped in the shape of the state.

Likewise, Stephanie Fischer’s “Dallol (volcano)” transforms the deck beyond its functionality as a skateboard.

Fischer replicated the Dallol hydrothermal field in the Danakil desert, an alien-like landscape in Ethiopia, with green and yellow hues of resin, foam and rocks.

For about three hours on Sunday afternoon, the clutch of humanity swarming the gallery floor resembled a congress of rebel tribes marked by tattoos, piercings and other outlier fashion statements such as a straw Vietnamese peasant hat. There was talent, and there were spotters.

“I’m in the stalking phase,” Winston-Salem curator Lee Mecum said, after mentioning a handful of artists in the show whose work she had either placed in other venues or was seeking to meet. She introduced fellow curator Jane Buck to Phil Young – the pop artist responsible for “Kiss the Sky,” whose canvasses pay tribute to the likes of John Lennon, Marvin Gaye and David Bowie. Buck thought Young would be perfect for a series of shows she’s curating at Earshot record store in Winston-Salem, leading the two to close a deal on the spot.

Wilkerson recruited four judges to assess the quality of the skateboard-art pieces on design, execution and originality. Truth be told, at least half of the entries could have credibly contended for the top three spots such was the quality of the pool, but subjectivity in art is an unruly beast.

Riannon Clarke said “Have a Smoke,” which placed third, is “the biggest piece I’ve ever done.” She was thrilled by the recognition.

The prancing devil surrounded by floating cigarettes and framed by poppy flowers connects with her on a personal level.

“I was just doing an old-fashioned devil sketch – old-timey stuff,” she said. “I like the design elements. I thought he should be smoking… pulling in the dark side. It’s something I struggle with. Half of my family has lung cancer. I really shouldn’t smoke cigarettes. And then there are the poppies; they’re in there because cigarettes can be as addictive as heroin.”

“Bubbleyum” took first place. An explosion of vibrant color over a backdrop of patterned lines, the centerpiece is a squid protruding from a mouth with blue lips.

Covered with tattoos, including a small anchor on her cheekbone, and with a shaved head, Madison Loftis stood next to her deck flush with compliments and praise.

“It embodies my personality to a tee because of the colors and how it’s so busy,” she said. “There’s just a lot going on.”

Patch Whisky, Nick Pironio, Johnny Collins, Beka Butts and Adrienne McCann exhibit at Theatre Art Galleries, located at 220 E. Commerce St. in High Point, on Friday from 7 to 10 p.m. The event includes music by Jacqui Haggerty and Trent Wesley, along with Prez, DJ Bonsani and the BBoys. Beer, wine and refreshments available.

Amplifier magazine drops its sixth issue at New York Pizza in Greensboro on Friday at 7:30 p.m. The event doubles as a CD release party for Bare the Traveler, with additional sets by Totally Slow, Grant Livesay, Dante CK and Wolf’s Mouth.

Josephus Thompson III hosts a poetry café at the Khalif Event Center, located at 2000 E. Wendover Ave. in Greensboro, on Friday from 9 to 11 p.m. Contact Thompson by calling 336.254.1670 or by visiting !


Art Deck’O Nouveau is on display at Uptown Artworks, located at 1007 Arnold St. in Greensboro, through Feb. 4.