My American Dream: City of Angels
SkateBoarder, 2023 Oil on linen 55 × 42"
SkateBoarder, 2023
Oil on linen 55 × 42"

This is an appropriation of the famous SkateBoarder magazine, from 1975, with Brad Logan on the cover in Sundance, in the first issue of the magazine to feature the Dogtown articles—Aspects of the Downhill Slide by Carlos Izan with photos by Craig “CR” Stecyk with photos by Glen Friedman.  By the 1970’s, the skateboard phenomena had died down, but it was this duo, and their coverage, encouragement, and impresario of the Zepher skateboard team (the Z-boys) that revolutionized the sport and changed American culture.  Stecyk was a partner for the skateboard shop and company that created the boards the kids rode on, and Friedman was a young skater who took pictures of his cohort (and later the seminal LA punk bands).  Together, with Surf Magazines latest spinoff SkateBoarder, they were able to document the young rebels of the then bohemian and working-class world of Santa Monica to create images of freedom and long-haired exuberance (and radical new skating techniques and tricks) of the group, and guided them in their dress, routines, and lifestyles.  Brad Logan, from Hermosa Beach, featured on the cover, wasn’t a part of this group, but still was considered one of the “first families of Skateboarding,” with his famous nose wheelie, which he and his family perfected in North San Diego County in La Costa and the Black Hill.

Growing up in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado, far from the ocean but still in the cool area of recreational sports and liberal youth culture, in the 70’s and 80’s all the kids wanted to live in California and would bring surfboards to high school even when it was snowing out, wearing corduroy OP shorts and baseball caps and wearing Vuarnet sunglasses.   SkateBoarder was like a bible, and the punk rock kids that I hung out with would skate in parking lots and empty pools at night.  I would go with them, and although I was a pretty good skier, I was an uncoordinated, not out (even to myself) gay kid, and would skate along with them sliding on my stomach (stupid and even more dangerous in retrospect!).  But I listened and loved that music—like in the seminal “Over the Edge” soundtrack Cheap Trick, Hendrix, the Cars, and the Ramones—and later, I was a tween Deadhead, sliding into early 80’s punk (which also celebrated community as much as the Dead parking lot culture!), and saw Black Flag, X, and the early amazing punk rock bands that would come through Denver and play afternoon shows.  I was kind of a preppy, but would hide my duffle bag with my Gang of Four t-shirt under a shrub in the front lawn, and change into it in the car going to slam dance at all ages afternoon shows in downtown Denver at the Mercury Café, near Wax Trax records, coming home covered in sweat and telling my folks I went to a jazz concert and we danced a lot and it was really hot.

While painting this I listened to all this music, played and found new and old docs and skateboarding films (Dogtown and Z-Boys and the biopic Lords of Dogtown especially, but also great old films and docs on YouTube), and read the book DogTown: The Legend of the Z-Boys by Steck and Friedman and more.  I love Van Gogh and Turner, and feel that, our job when rendering from photos is to penetrate the photo rather than paint the surface of it and wanted to get “inside” beyond the patina of the frayed cover of the image like when I and so many kids would gaze into the image of the surface of these magazines wanting to be transported and part of that culture.  Still, where I live in Riverside CA, we have tract home suburbia’s being built up around us, much like it was back in the Robert Adams world I grew up in 70’s suburban Denver, and like the background of this image, kids trying to find their own American Dream in these fledgling universes of American families.