Surfboard Art—Making Waves on Gallery Walls

Jeff Muhs surfboard art.
Jeff Muhs' surfboard art. Photo credit: Sandra Hale Schulman

Art on surfboards isn’t a new idea, but the reasons for painting/screening/printing on these moveable surfaces change as rapidly as surf conditions themselves. The images speak to obsessions with surface, as well as endangered ecology, logo consumerism, random sloganeering and swell riffs on traditional design. Several East End artists have taken to the board as a canvas this summer, making art that finds itself everywhere from the beach to Bloomingdale’s to the high-end art fairs.

East End artist-designed boards were on exhibit at ArtHamptons and at Art Southampton last month. One of the artists tapped to create a board was Southampton’s Jeff Muhs, who creates furniture, paintings and sculpture, all inspired by the East End. As a spin-off design of his latest body of work, Muhs painted a surfboard that “resembles what it feels like to surf” he says. The board reflects the current body of paintings Muhs is creating.

Peter Dayton was also included in the fair exhibit. His surfboard artwork pays homage to the high culture of abstraction and the throwback 1950s culture of classic surf art. The East Hampton artist’s rectangular wood panels have echoes of iconic ’50s and ’60s painting by Kenneth Noland and Barnett Newman mashed up with The Beach Boys. He hangs ten on highly epoxied wood boards festooned with stripes and Hawaiian flowers and surf-style logos.

Commissioned by skateboard company Supreme for their Artist series, Sagaponack resident Richard Prince designed two skate decks and has also used his icon with a twist, Skull Bunny, on a surfboard. The decks feature a hippie cartoon character on a white background and a laser-etched Playboy bunny skull on black. The pair make for a stark contrast that add to Prince’s odd ball iconography of found images and manipulated appropriations.

Montauk’s Tin Ojeda began painting in the early 2000s, as well as working with screen printing and photography. An avid surfer, he spray-painted a surfboard for a friend using words as his graphic. The usable object soon became a subject for his photography as well as a form of self-advertising for his art/surf film “Daughter” released last year.

While x-rays usually conjure up images of hospitals and airport security scanners, to Wainscott artist Steve Miller, they are a way to see “the health of the planet” from the inside out. Working out of a renovated potato barn studio, Miller has been using x-rays of flora and fauna he took in South America as the basis for some wide-ranging art—paintings, prints on glass, clothing and surfboards. They formed a series he called “Health of the Planet.”

Miller’s sci-fi transparent images of alligators, snakes—complete with undigested mouse in belly—and manta rays festoon a series of surfboards that are on display in the windows of Bloomingdale’s in Manhattan as well as at the LongHouse in East Hampton’s season opening show.

Montauk’s Dalton Portella has been creating a series of work using sharks as his theme ever since he took a cage dive last summer and became fascinated with both their plight as an overfished species and a sleek model for his artwork. Sharks on boards allows for an ominous reading of their presence both above and silently—cue the “Jaws” music—below the board.

Never one to miss an opportunity to remain relevant, the Andy Warhol Foundation and Tim Bessell of Bessell Surfboards have created a limited edition of Artist series surfboards that are being sold through Gagosian Gallery online and in their Madison Shop in Manhattan. The Artist Series surfboard combines graphics inspired by artist Andy Warhol on Tim’s most popular surfboard shapes. Warhol’s ever popular Marilyn and Flowers are among the images being screened on the boards.

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