The idea of creating artwork on surfboards isn’t new.
But Mark and Mary Loria, owners of Victoria’s contemporary indigenous art specialist Alcheringa Gallery, wanted to bring a Northwest Coast cultural flair to the idea. Their exhibition project Surfer’s Paradise: Northwest Coast Surfboards, brought together 19 artists for their interventions on, and interpretations of, the surfboard.
The exhibition opened in early August to popular acclaim. Mark Loria says visitors at that event and those who have viewed them since at their store at 621 Fort St. have been drawn in by the combination of vibrant colours and themed designs – not to mention the unique cedar panel “canvas.”
“We saw such such themes emerge as connection to the water, generations of travelling in the water and conservation of the ocean,” he says. “There’s lots of depictions of animals, which are important in the Northwest Coast Culture anyway, but a lot of ocean themes: sea breeze, eagles, sea serpents, squid.”
While these fine art surfboards will never likely find their way into the water, the general idea of surfing and its own contemporary culture was a thread running through the artists’ works, he says. They were encouraged to explore their own relationship to that culture, and their connection to the ocean and the land of their own territories on Canada’s West Coast.
Fourteen of the 19 artists came to the opening earlier this summer, including many who wanted to see what the other artists had come up with, Loria says. It was the first time any of them had worked on a surfboard, he adds.
Three of the boards have been sold so far, one of which is headed to Germany, a country with a great fondness for Northwest Coast aboriginal art, Loria says.
“Also I think surfing is so popular all over the world, people have a good feeling about it,” he says of the reaction to the boards. “We’ve had people all over the world viewing them already (in person and on their online catalogue).”
Alcheringa ships all over the world and Loria expects many of these unique art pieces to make their way to faraway places. “That was our hope, was that this expression, these new ideas will be seen by a lot of people.”
Surfer’s Paradise: Northwest Coast Surfboards runs through Sept. 21 at Alcheringa. All of the surfboards can also be viewed on the gallery website at alcheringa-gallery.com.
Seven of the boards have been moved to the Brentwood Bay Resort and Spa along with other art pieces by their respective artists. The collection will be part of a new exhibition on the traditional land of the WSÁNEĆ Peoples.