In the small, fiercely independent world of skateboarding, art and athletics intersect.
"It's a sport that intertwines perfectly with art; there's an individuality you have in both," said Michael Paulus, 34, skateboarder, artist, and coproducer of "Just Inspired." This new exhibit is an homage to the young sport that exhilarates its athletes with speed, a sense of freedom, and moments of airborne weightlessness.
The show opens with a public reception Saturday night, 7 to 10, on the fourth floor of Space 237, the edgy downtown gallery at 237 North Michigan St. It celebrates the 10th anniversary of Just Skateboards, the West Toledo shop where coproducer Ryan Shull, 30, worked.
"We've been talking about doing this for years. We're just ready to do it," Shull said. "It's a way of saying 'we're here.'•"
Skateboard art is usually exhibited on bodies (T-shirts) and below feet (the boards themselves). It's strongly influenced by graffiti and urban art, as well as other genres such as anime and tattoo.
Skateboarding's soundtrack is likely to be hip-hop, punk, or metal. Saturday night, DJs will play music while video editor Brian Gibson runs his short clips until about 9 when he'll do live-performance editing of local-skateboarding footage to music.
"His goal is to be as creative as possible," Shull said.
Shull and Paulus concocted a show that includes the work of local and formerly-local artists; they distributed 20 skateboard decks, the 7 1/2-by-31-inch maple-laminate boards, asking each recipient to decorate and return them. About a dozen responded by painting, silk-screening, and carving designs in the bottom, sidewalk-facing part of the deck.
A deck shipped back from San Francisco by an artist known as Mildred depicts a crocodile snout in black and white. It feels quickly created and reminiscent of Walt Kelly's style in the "Pogo" comic strip.
Jared "MEDE" Oberle shows seven decks, including one in graffiti-style; its blue horizontal lines overlaid with beige curlicues outlined in black. An anime-influenced deck depicts a woman with big eyes and stethoscopes attached to her upper body and head. On another, Oberle painted four squares, each containing a figure: an alien, an ape, a man, and a robot.
Angelo Bullano, who operates the Plastik gallery in downtown Maumee, offers a deck fashioned to look like a blackboard with chalk drawings and the message: "Think harder."
Portland, Ore., artist Joe Limauro hand-carved a deck with dozens of blocky every-which-way arrows, the relief portion painted brown. His other piece is a paper print of the deck, blank areas filled in with hand painting.
Danny Kline's deck has three lithographed images taken from his music and CD designs.
A culture comprised almost entirely of white males, skateboarding sprang from the California surfer movement, which also generated art and music. When Paulus was growing up in Tiffin, skateboarding was a way to be different, to stand out. It grew into a lifestyle.
"I can remember being on my first skateboard in sixth grade and the cool graphics on the board," he said. "I would replicate what the board artists were doing."
Paulus, who designs marketing materials and maintains Web sites at an area manufacturing company, said he probably would not have studied fine art and graphic design at Bowling Green State University were it not for skateboard art. His experiments usually involve a computer.
"I'm really interested in silk screening. I emulated the same process [on computer] as far as look and feel," he said. One of his submissions is a silk-screen style collage whose elements include a team of field horses (the image taken from a glass transparency dating to the 1800s), old electrical diagrams showing how a spark plug operates and another of a piston, the word "POWER," and "16."
Working in Photoshop, he layered images and used simulated paint brushes to apply tones of black, gray, and light green. He even added silk screen-like smudges. An ink-jet printer transferred it to thick, museum-etching paper.
He created simple elegance on a skateboard deck. He hand-drew a robotic bird, scanned it into a computer, cut a silk screen, and screened the image on the board. Floating out of the bird's mouth is a dialogue balloon with the message, "just SK8."
Shull, whose elbow is supported by a steel plate and seven pins as a result of a skateboarding spill last year, has a degree in interactive multimedia from BGSU and works as a Web architect at a Bowling Green ad agency. He fell in love with the sport and its imagery as a boy.
"It was like a whole new world opened up to me of cool art, very fresh, very happening for someone who was 12 to get into," Shull said. Lessons learned on a board, he said, transfer seamlessly to adulthood.
"It's the ability to push yourself and come to terms with your own limits, and exceed them over time."
"Just Inspired" opens with a free, public reception Saturday, 7 to 10 p.m., at Space 237, 237 North Michigan St. in downtown Toledo. An after-party will be at Frankie's Inner City, 308 Main St. The exhibit continues through Sept. 16. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, and by appointment. Information: 419-255-5117 and www.justinspiredohio.com.
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