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New ‘Sea Sick in Paradise’ exhibition makes grand debut
Surfers, artists, many who follow both callings, and an appreciative, eclectic crowd of well-wishers gathered Saturday, July 8, as “Sea Sick in Paradise,” a group exhibition curated by visionary Amy Yao, opened at Malibu Village.
The summer-long exhibition, brought to the Bu by the Depart Foundation, features a multitude of installations by 46 emerging and established artists in a variety of media.
When one walks into the colorful, vibrant, highly visual expansive exhibit space, they breathe in the freshness and invigoration of creativity that is unique to Malibu. Images of surfers from all eras merge in waves of wonder, with paintings, photographs, sketches, street art tagging, textiles, sculptures, large works and films depicting a potpourri of surfing venues, from Maui to Malibu and Indo to Uluwatu.
The collaboration embraces and celebrates surfing culture and its subcultures from 1960’s old school surfing to emerging surfers charging the largest pipelines with their innovative take on the sport and culture of surfing.
“I am stoked to be a part of such an interesting group of artists and it is fun to participate in my band as a live performer playing the soundtrack for ‘Forbidden Trim,’ as well as showing my film, ‘Forbidden Trim’ on 35 mm film,” director and musician George Trimm said. “The movie is basically about an Army man that goes on a surf adventure deep in the forbidden jungle in order to eliminate a criminal syndicate.”
The exhibition not only focuses on visual and film arts, but also offers the community many other experiences.
“We’ve got a fun summer of art, film screenings, and conversations ahead, culminating with William Finnegan, author of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize winning memoir, 'Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life,' in conversation with me and Barry McGee in September,” said Jon Christensen, adjunct assistant professor at the Laboratory for Environmental Narrative Strategies at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. “We can come together around art for crucial conversations about our world. It will take all of us telling all our stories to continue to protect the coast in these challenging times.”
At a press conference welcoming the innovative, intriguing exhibition on Friday, July 7, Malibu Mayor Skylar Peak noted “If you just look across the PCH, you see Surfrider Beach. Malibu is full of people who are ingrained in the surfing culture and it is very important as Malibu evolves to tell that story. This community thrives around a culture celebrating the arts.”
Opening night for the exhibition on July 8 was fantastically frenetic. An enormous crowd was alive with the energy the installations evoked. Viewers oohed and ahhed at every turn they took in the exhibition space and enjoyed the outdoor dancing area and bands.
“I’m loving this exhibit,” Robin Tunney said. “It’s very well-curated. It’s perfect. Malibu needs this kind of art exhibit.”
Surfer and musician Kev Vanderzel admired an eclectic array of works and leaned in to appreciate details and nuances of each rendition’s take on surfing. The acrylic on wood panel pieces by Margaret Kilgallen captured his attention.
“This exhibit shows how you can push the limits on what conventional art materials are,” he said. “It reflects both the strangeness and wonder of traditional and alternative surf cultures.”
One of the most striking installations is a street art work by Jeff Ho, legendary creator of surfboards and skateboard dating back to the 1960s.
“I built surfboards for Dogtown and Zephyr skateboard teams,” Ho said. “So, throughout my entire life I have been doing some form of art regarding surfing.”
Ho’s enormous tagging installation — striking in its black and white contrasts — welcomes exhibition visitors and gives each a moment to pause and reflect on the fact that the oceans, the surf, and the coasts belong to everyone.
“This installation here is about all cultures, how it is natural for people to have a ‘locals only’ attitude,” Ho said.
Yao worked painstakingly to ensure inclusivity was celebrated in the exhibition. Installations by artists of every background, age and experience level are included.
“I wanted to create a show where surfing is not just connected with white men,” Yao said. “So, I intentionally sought out artists from other cultures and backgrounds. The exhibit is not just about boardism, but focuses on other aspects of surfing.”
“Sea Sick in Paradise” is exhibited in collaboration with Surfrider Foundation, Karma Automotive, The Agency, Malibu Village, Dean & DeLuca, and the City of Malibu. The exhibit serves as a catalyst for artistic expressions regarding surfing and its culture as well as for launching conversations about today’s coastal narrative.
“Malibu is a unique land and marine environment. That is underscored in our very name. Originally, the Chumash called this place Humaliwo, which means ‘where the surf sounds loudly,’” said Catherine Malcolm-Brickman, chairwoman of the Malibu Cultural Arts Commission. “Surfers know the voice of the sea and how she reminds us, sometimes very loudly, to be good stewards of the land and water. This exhibition examines that relationship.”