Category Archives: Visual Arts

Mending Communities: Fabric Artist Clara Wainwright

BY JEREMY OLSEN

“Mending Baghdad” by Clara Wainwright. Photo copyright Richard Howard.

“Mending Baghdad” by Clara Wainwright. Photo copyright Richard Howard.

Please enjoy listening to our interview.

When communities have stories to be told or wounds to be healed—and all of them do—art offers a powerful answer, a way to preserve history, a means for expressing cultural priorities, or even a sort of talisman to help people through difficult times. One might look at the AIDS Quilt as an embodiment of all three.

Fabric artist Clara Wainwright has used her art in other charitable ways, but this idea of using it to build, unite, and heal communities is a hallmark of her body of work. Witness “Mending Baghdad” (above), which Wainwright created in response to a photo of a war-battered Baghdad she saw on the cover of a newspaper during the first Gulf War. She left the quilt unfinished, gluing down pieces instead of sewing them, so that she could then use the work as a centerpiece of discussion or a catalyst for emotional release as other people finished the quilt. At various workshops around the U.S. and the U.K., participants “mended” the city of Baghdad, a potent metaphor for their sympathy and sorrow for the innocent lives lost or disrupted in the war, and a starting point for exploring their understanding of the war and its consequences.

A prominent New England textile artist, Wainwright has pieces in the permanent collections of the Boston Museum of Fine Art and others. And not long ago, Art Corps named her as one of their two 2012 Creative Activists. We hope you enjoy hearing her talk about her art and how it fits like a puzzle piece into the world around her.

“Surrounded By Water” by Clara Wainwright. Photo copyright Richard Howard.

“Surrounded By Water” by Clara Wainwright. Photo copyright Richard Howard.

Published November 7, 2012

Giving Form to Invisible Connections: visual artist Lisa Carroll

BY OLGA MOSKVINA

Investigating the intricate relationship between human beings and their surroundings has been a lifelong passion for artist and designer Lisa Carroll. Carroll brings this passion to bear on her artistic practice, incorporating a variety of media to create abstract pieces that evoke the organic world, probing the boundaries between the manmade and the natural, the individual and the world at large. Her work discloses just how imperfect and provisional such categories are: our sense of opposition or belonging to a broader context can shift dramatically when we are placed in situations—or before works of art—that preclude or, conversely, encourage our contemplation and participation.

"Western Sector" by Lisa Carroll. Mixed media installation.

“Western Sector” by Lisa Carroll. Mixed media installation.

Carroll grew up on the coast of Massachusetts, in a place that she describes as “full of cranberry bogs, marshes, pine forests.”

“For my brother, sister and I these were our playgrounds,” Carroll said. “We would run and explore for miles and lose all sense of time until someone would hear someone’s mother calling to come in for dinner.”

Eventually, Carroll relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where she has been living for 22 years. An avid runner and camper, she spends much of her time in the remote places of California.

“My understanding of the West is that of both place and spirit,” she explained. “It is my ideal vacation to get myself to a remote lake in the mountains, hike to a hot spring, set myself down on a mesa in the desert, tuck away into a pocket in a canyon and feel myself in the middle of everywhere out there in the middle of nowhere. There is a perfect spot at 8,000 feet in the White Mountains (Eastern CA) where you can look across Owen’s Valley toward the Eastern slope of the Sierras; it is a pleasure to sit there for hours watching the light change and shape that endless space. That is the West in an external sense. There is also the West in an internal sense, the mode of quest, engaging one’s curiosity.”

It is the landscape of California that has had the most decisive influence on Carroll’s artistic sensibility, suggesting materials and motifs for her gorgeous paintings, sculptures, and installations. One of the recurring forms in Carroll’s work is lichen, which she became interested in over time, through her repeated encounters with it in her athletic practice.

“For years I had been running the trails in Redwood Regional Park finding my eye drawn to the lichen encrusting the Bay Laurels,” Carroll said, “And then it just built to a point where the only possible next thing to do was to make that connection and create artwork that expressed my sensorial ritual experience of taking in that lichen for all those years.”

This motif was featured prominently in Western Sector, an installation Carroll created as part of a group exhibition at Inhabit Gallery in Oakland. Walking into the room, viewers found themselves surrounded by clusters of large, delicate lichen-like shapes framing the room’s functional elements and spilling onto the floor, their organic exuberance not so much at odds with the simple geometry of right angles as complementing it, transforming the gallery space so that it might be experienced with the body as well as with the eye. Inviting the viewer to explore and inhabit a temporary space, the work functioned as a reminder of the continuity between nature and human activity, and the simultaneous ephemerality and repetitiveness of their processes.

“It is an acknowledgement that our impact on our environment is a pattern,” Carroll explained. “The action of making each individual part is a repetitive act, a meditation, an act of devotion, embracing the merging of the divine with the mundane. The action of installing and de-installing continues the process. We are nature.”

Carroll has also carried her sense of belonging to a broader context beyond her creative engagement with the mountains, forests, and coastlines of the West. Among other things, she has channeled her love of running into an effort to aid some of the most vulnerable members of the global community. In 2010, Carroll joined her longtime running partner Deidre (Dee) Williams on a 40-mile run to benefit Run For Congo Women.

The situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been a humanitarian crisis for years, and women have paid the heaviest toll for the unending war. Many have lost homes, friends, and family members—including children, many of whom perish before the age of five from inadequate nutrition and medical care. Moreover, the bodies of women have long been treated as part of the battlefield. Horror stories of torture and gang rape abound, and survivors have to live with the physical and psychological trauma, as well as the stigma that rape inevitably carries, usually subsisting below the poverty line and without access to resources that might help them start over.

Run for Congo Women is a grassroots effort to raise awareness and funds for women affected by the continuing violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo through running and walking events. According to Carroll, her running partner had been inspired by Lisa Shannon, the organization’s founder. When Williams first discussed the idea with her, Carroll recalled in a phone interview, “It brought tears to my eyes… I had no idea that there was something like this out there and that I could be involved.”

They called their run the 40-40-40 Project, dedicating each mile to a specific Congolese woman. Carroll worked out the logistics and designed their route. On the day of the run, they took part in a drumming ritual, establishing a connection with the women to whom the run was dedicated. The grueling nature of a forty-mile run deepened this connection.

“[When you run for long distances], you tap into interesting places in your mind,” said Carroll. “By mile eighteen I was in pain, but the thought of stopping was not possible because these women were on our minds… We have a refrain: ‘Pain is just a sensation.’”

To date, Run for Congo Women has raised over $1 million for Women for Women International, an organization which enrolls women in war-torn regions of the world in yearlong programs that offer counseling, education, and job training. The goal of the program is to provide women with skills and confidence they can put to use in starting businesses and building better lives for themselves and their children.

So far, over 58,000 women have benefitted from the organization’s work in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Almost all of the participants in the region have first-hand knowledge of the miseries and deprivations of war, whether through seeing their homes destroyed, surviving rape or the loss of loved ones, or being unable to receive necessary healthcare. Graduates of the program report an increase in confidence, and most are able to find jobs or even start businesses of their own, contributing to the growth of their economy and the healing of their nation. The Women for Women International website reports that “[o]n average, graduates nearly double their income over the course of the yearlong program.” Additionally, 98% of the women who finish the program report knowing their rights, compared to 5% of those who are just entering the program. These are encouraging statistics. Amidst the wreckage of war, the strong, courageous women who can support themselves, their children, and one another may be the surest sign of hope for the future.

Calvin Grimm: Nature’s Power, Captured on Canvas

When you look at Calvin Grimm’s paintings, what do you see? Biomorphic forms and vivid colors? Abstract expressionism – with an organic twist? The melding of line and shape that both haunts us and gives us hope? There’s no right answer; the work of this Woodstock-based artist and environmentalist embodies all of the above. Each of Calvin Grimm’s paintings is a rich and personal expression of our human relationship with the natural world. He articulates that his goal in painting is “to inspire people spiritually through art in a conversation about the beauty of nature and about the sustainability of nature. I feel gifted that I can do that through my art.” There’s another important element to Grimm’s work: optimism. “Very often my paintings are optimistic because nature is constantly fulfilling and revitalizing,” he says. Grimm’s gift with a paintbrush allows him to share the beauty of nature with others, and to engender hope that humans can interact meaningfully with, and protect, our natural world. He calls painting “the unique language that I have to help people feel optimism, so we can sustain the fight, and sustain the involvement [in environmental activism].” Grimm shares this unique language and skill with a number of organizations whose missions center around environmental protection.

Calvin Grimm: "Seeker/Sought: Deep Ocean/Deep Space Series". 2013. Oil on canvas.

Calvin Grimm: “Seeker/Sought: Deep Ocean/Deep Space Series”. 2013. Oil on canvas.

Grimm believes firmly in the importance of experiencing nature’s beauty and power firsthand. This, he says, is our best environmental defense system: if people interact with the natural world, they will come to see its importance, and then will be inspired and motivated to protect it. Beginning in the early 1970’s, Grimm became involved in the National Outdoor Leadership School, or NOLS, leading five-week-long mountaineering and sea kayaking expeditions in Wyoming and Alaska. (He also transported supplies to the adventurers by horseback). He says that the work allowed him, and the young people on the trip, to “absorb the nuances of the natural world,” and to “experience the wilderness, and the dynamic of forces and people and the changing environment, and all the while, to build a sensitivity in how we relate to that environment.” The genuine interaction between people and the natural world makes up the basis for human respect for nature – and the foundation for working together to protect it.

In addition to his work with NOLS, Grimm has been involved with the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, a 106-foot long replica vessel of the sloops that sailed the Hudson River in the 18th and 19th centuries, conceptualized by activist and American folk legend Pete Seeger. Since its construction in 1969, the Clearwater has served as the flagship of the environmental movement, its purpose to educate youth about what they can do to protect and preserve the Hudson River.

Don’t miss The Lamp Project’s video exhibit of Calvin Grimm’s work, plus the on-camera interview about his life, art, and causes.

Grimm was a boatswain on the Clearwater throughout the 1970’s, charged with the boat’s maintenance, as well as an educator for students who came aboard. He describes Seeger’s vision and the mission of the Clearwater: “If you get people to fall in love with the river, they can actually appreciate that there are living creatures in it, and that it has a life of its own. Then, it became a love, which became a political force – Seeger wanted to create a groundswell of political activism – taking people’s sense of love and a sense of the crime that was being done and transforming that emotion into action.” Grimm also mentions how powerful it was for children to see that it took serious teamwork to raise the boat’s huge sail, an idea of collective intention that would fuel their efforts as champions of the environment long after they disembarked the Clearwater.

Depicting the devastation – both physical and emotional – of nature’s destruction by humans is also an important element in Grimm’s work. He describes the time he spent in Prince William Sound, Alaska, and the particular memory of how the tide receded to reveal sea urchins and sea anemones clinging, vulnerable, to the rocks. He developed “a deep and personal relationship with those creatures.” When he heard news of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 in Prince William Sound, Grimm was overcome with emotion. What he’d begun in his studio as a hopeful painting about these sea animals became “visceral, slimy, oily, and devastating. The creatures attempted to pull themselves out of the mess, unsuccessfully, and black crows were flying around, but it was all in an abstract representation…It was a real expression of my disappointment, my hurt, and my anger.” Grimm channeled his emotions into his work, and the result was a remarkable canvas that chronicles a disastrous natural and historical event. When he heard news of the BP oil spill in 2010, Grimm knew that he had to revisit the painting. The final canvas, titled Exxon Valdez to BP Gulf Oil Spills (1989-2010), both awes us in its beauty and frightens us in its reality.

In speaking about his work with youth, Grimm also touches on our modern disconnect with nature. He mentions Nature Deficit Disorder, a condition defined by a lack of connection with natural elements that can result in attention and mood disorders, depression, and obesity. He says that children in particular have lost their interest in and respect for nature, and have not “developed their intuition, sensitivity and feeling for it. They can’t have a spiritual experience with it if they can’t actually feel it.” In terms of protecting our environment, the worry is that “these people are not going to be qualified to steward [nature], not being in touch with it, and not knowing what it means to lose it.” Grimm speaks with a palpable sadness, and we can see the potent memory of his experience working with youth on the Clearwater and during NOLS expeditions.

But, ever the optimist, Grimm continues to show us through his work how central and vital our connection with nature can be. And, Grimm maintains his connection to various environmental protection organizations, such as The Woodstock Land Conservancy, by painting pieces to be used as auction centerpieces that attract critical fundraising. Grimm’s home, too, stands as a testament to his passion for protecting our environment. Built out of recycled and repurposed materials and designed to complement the wooded mountainside it rests on, Grimm’s house functions as both an art gallery to display his work, and a work of art to be admired all on its own.

To be sure, it will take more than appreciating works of art imbued with the majesty of our natural world to alter attitudes and environmental policy. And paintings may never be enough to recapture what we have already lost. However, the impact of Calvin Grimm’s art is undeniable: he allows us to understand what, precisely, we are fighting for.

If you are interested in learning more about Calvin Grimm and his art, please visit his website, calvingrimm.com. You can also learn more about the organizations that Calvin Grimm is involved in, including the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, and the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), by visiting their websites for more information.

Drawing Powerful Women: graphic novelist Maureen Burdock

BY ANGELIQUE SZYMANEK

Pastel from "Maisa & the Bad Muslim Girls." By Maureen Burdock.

Pastel from “Maisa & the Bad Muslim Girls.” By Maureen Burdock.

When one thinks about comic books, images of muscle-bound heroes, supernatural villains and busty damsels-in-distress are among the expected visual tropes that come to mind. In the graphic novels of artist Maureen Burdock, however, battles between men bent on destroying the world and the adventures of those who fight to defend it are replaced with stories of women who overcome real-life issues of sexual violence, domestic abuse and murder, among others. In the brightly colored world of comics, themes drawn so directly from the world around us are a rare encounter and, most certainly, those of gendered violence have yet to find their way into the hyper-masculine spaces of the graphic novel. Burdock has created a compelling alternative, however, in her series of comic books entitled The F Word Project: Five Feminist Fables for the 21st Century. These women are both victims and their own heroes in their encounters with various forms of gender-based violence.

Born in Germany in 1970, Burdock emigrated to the U.S. with her mother at the age of seven. The two fled to escape domestic violence but Maureen continued to endure various forms of abuse and, from an early age, used art as a way to navigate these painful experiences. While she was working in New Mexico, Burdock was introduced to the world of comic books by members of Seis Cinco Seis Comics Collective. When asked why she turned to this particular medium, Burdock replied that she wanted to “make work that is accessible to a broad public and can be disseminated in venues including-but also beyond-galleries and museums. … The juxtaposition between images and text,” she continues, “can also be particularly potent and evocative.”

Burdock began work on The F Word Project in 2006 and, thus far, three of the five books have been completed: Maisa and the Bad Muslim Girls, Marta and the Missing, and Mona and the Little Smile. Each tells the story of a woman facing the threat of violence who, through bravery, intellect, and the use of a bit of magic, is able to defeat the evil characters and dark forces perpetrating that violence. Burdock has described her superheroines as “extraordinary/ordinary women” whose “bodies are not idealized or sexualized.” It is important to the artist that these women defy the usual stereotypes not only of comic book lore but within society more broadly. They manage this by refusing to be victims and, instead, they take control over their own bodies and destinies. They also provide a much needed forum in which the difficult issues of the femicides in Juarez, child molestation and honor killings can each be grappled with. “Far from depicting victims or people being defined by their unfortunate circumstances,” Burdock explains, “my stories are snapshots of powerful women in motion. Real women and men who I collaborate with to create these stories are my inspiration.”

Artwork from "Maisa & the Bad Muslim Girls." By Maureen Burdock.

Artwork from “Maisa & the Bad Muslim Girls.” By Maureen Burdock.

This mission to create dialogue, community building, and awareness constitute the “F” in The F Word Project as, according to the artist, being a feminist simply means believing in equality and in creating coalitions that help to ”combat inequality, colonialism, the military industrial complex, et cetera.” Creating the possibility for healing and collectivity, according to Burdock, takes both recognizing that men are also affected by gendered violence and that “galvanizing communities to act in solidarity means overcoming gender binaries as well as other phobias and generalizations.” So far, Burdock’s goal to reach as diverse an audience as possible seems to be within reach as the novellas have already been exhibited in thirteen cities internationally and the books themselves have been used in several universities as part of gender studies classes. Although it would seem that the art world is far from accepting comic books as a form of “high art,” Burdock makes it clear that she “cares more about making work that LIVES, moves, affects people than making work that tickles reviewer’s fancies or looks mysteriously and compellingly incomprehensible in the fetishized white cube environment.”

Burdock is currently working on the final two books of the series, the next of which will address the subject of female genital mutilation. Although the topics Burdock chooses to address are dark and at times very difficult to face, her beautiful illustrations and courageous narratives manage to bring hope and even humor to these terrible realities. As she describes, “None of the women in my fables are ‘fixed’ within the context of the problems they face. Instead, they galvanize their families and communities to collaboratively create change. These stories are hopeful and the heroines actively shape and reform their communities with their intelligence, humor, kindness, and with a bit of magical realism.”

Oil from "Mona & the Little Smile." By Maureen Burdock.

Oil from “Mona & the Little Smile.” By Maureen Burdock.

Maureen Burdock currently resides in Berkeley, California where she is a student at California College of the Arts in San Francisco working on completing MA degrees in visual and critical studies as well as studio art. She is also the founding director of the first US/San Francisco chapter of the London-based comics forum Laydeez do Comics, the first women-led graphic novel forum in the UK. Burdock also continues an independent freelance illustration practice and can be contacted via her website. Her her work is also included in the feminist art database of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center of the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

If you want to make a difference on these issues, follow the links below to purchase Maureen’s art and support her career, or to donate time or money to three organizations that are engaged in combatting violence against women.

The Artist Who Believed No Dream Impossible

BY ADIA WHITE

Inocente.

Inocente.


Who says we are defined by our life circumstances? Certainly not fifteen-year old artist Inocente. Despite living homeless and undocumented in San Diego since the age of six, Inocente faces the world with bright spirals painted on the corners of her eyes and large flowers adorning the crown of her head. She paints on whatever canvas she can get her hands on—jeans, tennis shoes, sweatshirt, face.

“Out there in the world, usually things aren’t very colorful, so maybe if they were a little bit more colorful, they’d make people just a little bit more happy,” Says Inocente in the recently released documentary of the same name.

Yet despite her relentless effort to make the world just a little bit brighter for all of us, homelessness and lack of legal documentation have pushed her to the darkest margins of society. Thanks to filmmakers Sean and Andrea Nix Fine, whose documentary, Inocente, follows the journey of this young artist, we can enjoy Inocente’s vivid colors and unique shapes. Their documentary paints a portrait of the challenges faced by homeless and undocumented youth living in the U.S., a portrait as vivid, but not nearly so bright, as Inocente’s paintings.

"If Only They Could See" by Inocente.

“If Only They Could See” by Inocente.


According to the Inocente documentary website, there are 1.5 million homeless youths and 1.8 million undocumented youths living in the U.S. today.  Twenty-five percent of homeless youths witness violence within in their families, a statistical category from which Inocente is not exempt.

Although Inocente’s home life has been bleak, her paintings are anything but.  The colors she paints reflect her passion for life despite the obstacles that come with waking each day. Her optimism comes from a determination to start the day with what makes her most happy, painting.  Each morning she applies her makeup with a paintbrush. Black and red triangles, spirals, or dots accentuate her eyes. Her makeup is a totem of her relentless commitment to pursuing her dreams.

Inocente credits her untamed imagination with the uncanny vibrancy of her art. “I like to look out the window and imagine, what if the trees could talk, or the people had super powers… I have a lot of impossible dreams, but I still dream them.”

Some would have considered Inocente’s appearance on stage at the Oscars last Sunday an impossible dream. Nevertheless, the film her art inspired won the Academy Award for best Documentary Short of 2013. Dressed in an elegant white dress, Inocente entered the stage along with filmmakers Sean and Andrea Nix Fine to receive their Oscar.

While Inocente’s optimism and imagination have prevailed, her success still remains exceptional. Inocente was fortunate enough to belong to A.R.T.S., a program designed to give homeless youths access to the arts. A.R.T.S—an acronym for A Reason To Survive—gave her a place that felt like home and allowed her to fill an otherwise grey world with color. Still, millions of youths endure struggles similar to Inocente’s, and without access to such programs. Funding for public arts education, which gave Inocente a life when she felt she had no other, is often an early target for budget cuts.  Even private, non-profit arts programs struggle to find funding needed to provide their services to youths. For Inocente, arts education allowed the beautiful world she dreamed of survive in her imagination when it could not manifest in her life.

My personal favorite of Inocente’s paintings is entitled “The Lost Planet.” In this piece, multicolored stars glimmer behind mountains garnished with glitter. The Lost Planet is meant to represent a land where children’s dreams reside after they are forsaken. When I see this painting I imagine how many dreams wind up there, dreams abandoned by children whose life circumstances forced them to give up dreaming far too early. Most of all I imagine how so many simple dreams, dreams like having a home, could be prevented from ending up on the lost planet in the first place.

"The Lost Planet" by Inocente.

“The Lost Planet” by Inocente.

Mending communities: fabric artist Clara Wainwright

BY JEREMY OLSEN

"Mending Baghdad" by Clara Wainwright. Photo copyright Richard Howard.

“Mending Baghdad” by Clara Wainwright. Photo copyright Richard Howard.

Please enjoy listening to our interview.

When communities have stories to be told or wounds to be healed—and all of them do—art offers a powerful answer, a way to preserve history, a means for expressing cultural priorities, or even a sort of talisman to help people through difficult times. One might look at the AIDS Quilt as an embodiment of all three.

Fabric artist Clara Wainwright has used her art in other charitable ways, but this idea of using it to build, unite, and heal communities is a hallmark of her body of work. Witness “Mending Baghdad” (above), which Wainwright created in response to a photo of a war-battered Baghdad she saw on the cover of a newspaper during the first Gulf War. She left the quilt unfinished, gluing down pieces instead of sewing them, so that she could then use the work as a centerpiece of discussion or a catalyst for emotional release as other people finished the quilt. At various workshops around the U.S. and the U.K., participants “mended” the city of Baghdad, a potent metaphor for their sympathy and sorrow for the innocent lives lost or disrupted in the war, and a starting point for exploring their understanding of the war and its consequences.

A prominent New England textile artist, Wainwright has pieces in the permanent collections of the Boston Museum of Fine Art and others. And not long ago, Art Corps named her as one of their two 2012 Creative Activists. We hope you enjoy hearing her talk about her art and how it fits like a puzzle piece into the world around her.

"Surrounded By Water" by Clara Wainwright. Photo copyright Richard Howard.

“Surrounded By Water” by Clara Wainwright. Photo copyright Richard Howard.

A Surfer’s Perspective: artist Erik Abel

BY SANDY TOWNSEND

Artist Erik Abel

 

“Having my life revolve around the ocean seems to have a comfortable rhythm,” says surf artist Erik Abel.

Based in Ventura, California, Erik surfs, makes art and travels. He comes from a coastline rich in the history of melding surfing and art, of surfers drawing inspiration from the ocean to tell their story through visual expression. But, how does surf art differ from other art forms?

Erik explains: “Surf art has waves and surfers in it and is usually painted by somebody who loves riding waves. Maybe that’s the only difference; only a surfer can really make surf art. I kinda like that.”

Visual exploration is a key theme in the artist’s highly stylized and graphic, ocean-related art, which is created on wood with acrylic, markers, colored pencils and other media.

“My art is mostly simple and direct. The color, shape and composition take charge over meaning or content. I’m a very visual person,” he says.

“My eyes need to be stimulated when I look at something not my brain. My brain gets enough exercise when I close my eyes at night…I need art to calm me down and keep me sane with nice pretty colors and big shapes.”

Erik’s work is found enlivening not only the walls of surfers but the advertising and products of creatively inspired surf and skate companies, including the promotional artwork for this month’s world surfing tour event, the Reef Hawaiian Pro, which features the newly crowned 11-times world champion, Kelly Slater.

A line of skateboard graphics for a new US company are in the pipeline and Erik is the next artist to feature in a new t-shirt line for Ventura’s Coastal Classics.

And, stretching the traditional concept of the canvas, Erik is fresh from a live art showcase at the Sacred Craft Surfboard Expo in Del Mar, in which he live-painted a surfboard as part of The Board Art Benefit – A Surfer’s Perspective.

Surf Art by Erik Abel

The Board Art Benefit, was held in aid of the charity, SurfAid International, and brought together 26 of the world’s leading surf artists and surfboard shapers, including the legendary surfer and shaper, Gerry Lopes. The collaboration saw artist and shaper partner to create live art on 13 surfboards, all of which will now be auctioned in coming months.

Erik teamed up with local Ventura surfboard shaper, Robert Weiner of Roberts Surfboards, for the event. Together they helped to raise much-needed funding so SurfAid can continue to deliver its community-based health and emergency response programs to isolated communities in the Mentawai, Nias, Telo and Banyak islands. Many of these communities have been devastated by numerous natural disasters, including the Boxing Day Tsunami (December 2004), Nias Earthquake (March 2005), Mentawai Earthquakes (September 2007), Padang Earthquake (September 2009) and Mentawai Tsunami (October 2010).

Of the Board Art Benefit Randal Schober, Executive Director of SurfAid International USA said: “We were honored to have Erik and other prominent surf artists be a part of the recent Board Art Benefit. The unique collaboration of board shaper and artist attracted thousands of interested attendees and brought awareness to our mission. We are very appreciative to Erik and the other artists for generously donating their time and talent to support SurfAid.“

The not-for-profit organization was founded by physcian and surfer, Dr Dave Jenkins in 1999 after an eye-opening surf trip to the Mentawais when he found he was the first doctor to ever step foot in an isolated local village and found women and children dying from malaria, malnutrition and inadequate living standards – things that he knew were treatable and preventable.

Photo by Michael Lawrence for Surfaid

While Erik is inspired by the natural world, he says that it is also inspiring to think about the effect art can have on modern culture and beyond, which is why it’s important for him to support the work of SurfAid.

“It takes honesty, compassion, and integrity to start an organization that goes into isolated areas to help with basic needs, especially after big natural disasters. It is respectful and inspiring to know that there are companies and people out there who actually give a damn,” he says.

In line with his philosophy of the potential for art to positively impact the world he has also launched the Fish Outta Water Project, in which he leaves free artwork in public places, encouraging strangers to take them.

In between his busy professional schedule and community projects, however, there will always be time for his biggest inspiration, surfing, Erik says.

“The surfing lifestyle will always be the biggest influence in my life until I am unable to surf anymore. There is nothing more exciting than going to a different country and culture to hunt waves.”

As they say, only a surfer knows the feeling.

Erik Abel’s public art project | Fish Outta Water Project

Roberts Surfboards | robertssurf.com

Board Art Benefit | www.boardartbenefit.com