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Interview: Mike Kershnar

Juxtapoz // Monday, 21 May 2007

Mike Kershnar, who's profiled in our June 2007 issue, stopped by the Juxtapoz headquarters and showed us some of his new poster and skate-deck work. We took the opportunity to interrogate him about skateboard graphics, urban and natural landscapes, Ed Templeton, designing and painting an entire theme park, and a wolf pack in the snow devouring a bunch of bodies from a plane crash.

Images courtesy of the artist

How would you describe your style?

I call it Nouveau Abo. Short for Nouveau Aboriginal. It has indigenous influence from around the world and seeks to bridge the gap between the ancient and modern psyches and urban and natural landscapes. People say they see elements of Australian Aboriginal, Northern Formline, Egyptian, Aztec, Ethiopian, and Pima styles in my art. The style is just a natural extension of the way I have always drawn. Sometimes I'm asked what tribal style I am using and I say, "Myonee."

What commercial work have you been up to recently?

I have a guest artist skateboard deck series coming out with Toy Machine this summer, which I am very excited about. I have always loved Ed Templeton and to get the nod from him as an artist is thrilling. I have also been blessed to get to do some rock posters for Good Vibez Entertainment with such acts as Taj Mahal, Los Lobos, Midnite, Groundation, and The Marley Brothers. These are super fun for me, as I have always loved the rock posters from the Fillmore era. I don't think it gets much more fun for commercial work than skateboard decks and rock posters.

What are some of you favorite skateboard graphics of all time?

As a kid, I was immediately attracted to the classic Powell work of VCJ, and Jim Phillips' Santa Cruz stuff. Those guys laid the foundation of what I always considered to be the skateboard aesthetic. There was heavy black line work and real meaning to each graphic. The Rabbis at the local Chabad used to give me Jim Phillips stickers for memorizing Biblical stories. It was great motivation. My favorite graphic of all time though is a Real Julian Stranger from '93-94 of a wolf pack in the snow devouring a bunch of bodies from a plane crash, but they are saving one baby to raise as their own. If anybody has a brand new deck of this, I will trade them a painting for it.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

My biggest influence of all time would have to be Ed Templeton. I always loved how he would attack a gallery space with photos, paintings, drawings, and work right on the walls. I think he epitomizes skateboard art. Rick Griffin is the man; that dude was light years ahead of the masses. Forty years later, his work is still cutting edge. Robert Crumb is a genius and gets my motor running every time. I also feel the need to mention Alex Grey, Jesse Miller, and John James Audubon.

What are you trying to express through your art?

My art seeks to be a signpost pointing towards the natural world and The Creator. I try to put a positive message into everything I do, and challenge people to break out of the rut and experience something real and powerful. I think art is the sum total of a person's experience, and I have been very blessed with incredible experiences in nature and the world at large. I try to shine the light back through my pieces.

Tell us a far out lifetime art goal that you have?

I would love to be commissioned by some museum or theme park to design and paint an entire ride, like Peter Pan or Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at Disneyland. I would like to be an indigenous cultures from around the world theme, kind of like the Museum of Natural History New York, but a ride. You come into one room and it is feels hot like a desert and there are ibexes butting heads and Bedouins with camels, and a lion drinking at an oasis. I think it would be unifying for humanity, kind of like "It's A Small World" but more psychedelic and daring.

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