Mike Kershnar: Wing and A Prayer LifestyleIllustration // Friday, 08 Aug 2014
'I grew up fully immersed in Southern California suburbs primarily as a skateboarder. I thought of the rich cultural art center of the world as Laguna Beach. I was aware of the concept of Europe as a place steeped in art history much older than the Americas but whatever reason I never considered the practical idea of spending time there. I had no European connections or language skills, but found myself intrigued by whatever lay across the ocean that produced David Bowie, Morrissey, Kraftwerk, and Tom Penny. The idea of Europe as an approachable place for myself began to form when I started to see documentation of the sojourns Mark Gonzalez was taking. It was as if he just uprooted himself from California and was transported to Paris where he was thriving and having the time of his life. It became a dream of mine to spend time haunting the great French city on the Seine.
Every now and again we experience large gifts and a true friend really throws you a bone. Marc Falkenstien and I first became friends at Skate Camp nestled in the Sequoia Mountains. In the early 2000’s Marc was the video director there and we partnered on all kinds of creative comedic projects, such as parodies of ‘The Gods Must Be Crazy’, Primitive Man Rap Videos, and wilderness survival trick tips. We both shared a passion to create and for the creative process, as well as making Skate Camp the most fun and memorable as we could.
Now ten years later he is the marketing director for Element, and I found him on the other end of the phone saying, “Dude, I got a good one for you. A four week railroad tour around Europe with a show once a week in Paris, London, Madrid, and Milan.” Undoubtedly, this was one of the most exciting things anyone had ever said to me. The trip was dubbed “Field Notes”. Spiritually it was sort of a reversal of what my great grand parents had done. While they sought freedom and abundance in the Americas via Ellis Island, I was to pursue these same ideals on the Old Continent in Europe.
The tour turned out to be lovely and filled with serendipity. I was beyond impressed with the openness and friendliness of the European people, and the respect they had for the arts and the journey of the artist. People would cordially offer places to stay, home cooked meals, as well as their time and energy all with an easy grace while speaking a second language. Through the wonderful people I came in contact with on the Field Notes Trip I was again flown back to Europe for four months this time to paint a hot air balloon for Art in the Sky in Paris and to stay at The Break Art Mix residency as well as the Adhoc Pad in Vienna.
There is an extra sense of excitement to me in Europe. Everything felt extra meaningful because of where I was. I wasn’t just skating down the street to the post office; I was skating down the street to the post office in Paris. Espresso and chocolate croissants were like vitamins. The visual culture that surrounds one in these cities is astounding. Everywhere you look is a beautiful sculpture, fountain, or garden. Just being out and about one feels like they are player in the grand symphony of these ancient streets where artists, writers, and musicians pursue their creative freedoms as they have since ancient times. I didn’t need a 10-euro beer in a fancy café when I could sit by the river and enjoy one for a half a euro from the super market. The potential of the place is amazing.
Thanks to the efforts of Anne Vegnaduzzo a young passionate art dealer in Paris, I found myself in a period of abundance. I suddenly had the ability to not only survive but to thrive. This allowed me the luxury of being generous and treating friends to Ethiopian Food and keeping the French wine flowing. For the first and only time in my life I had the secure feeling of having more than enough to eat and drink each day as Anne through her passion and connections moved my drawings and paintings, and arranged multiple mural commissions. This kind of care made me feel expansive and able to relax and truly appreciate and feel gratitude to all the beauty that surrounded me. I would like to continue to feel this way.
Now thanks to the LB Project, an International Skateboard Art Show I find myself with another ticket back to Europe, which in a moment of bravado I took for another four months. However this time I can’t just go back to the same residencies for the same amount of time and I have no clear plan other than the desire to create and thrive. However I remain steadfast in the belief that the path will reveal itself. My experiences in Europe thus far give me reason to believe in positive new unpredictable opportunities with new true friends. I believe there will be places to crash and opportunities to share my art. This is the adventure my spirit signed up for. There is no reason to cling to fear and think that grace and serendipity would not prevail as it has in the past, and that I would find myself starving living under a bridge or in the train station like a gargoyle. Bon Voyage and I will update you what happens after I hit the ground running in Copenhagen in September. Wing and a prayer lifestyle.'
C’est la vie.