Surfing takes the spotlight in a breathtaking new MAH show
Upon my arrival at his picturesque hillside studio, surf photographer and videographer Patrick Trefz offers me water with lemon. Soon after, I clamor behind him through a small dark semicircle, into a dome-shaped sweat lodge. It reminds me of an igloo made from stone. To my relief, on such a stifling hot afternoon (hence the water), the sweat lodge is currently out of order but, as Trefz points out, it provides great acoustics for our interview.
Trefz chats with me about surfing, then shares his thoughts on the Museum of Art & History (MAH) hosting its first-ever surfing exhibit.
“I’ve pushed for the MAH to do something like this for years,” he says. “I think it’s just great that the whole community is getting together. [The exhibit] has a lot of mass appeal to introduce the arts to kids and people who are maybe not really into the arts. A lot of people will probably go there who have never heard of the MAH before. I think surfing creates a lot of groundwork for a creative mind. Even if a surfer’s not necessarily an artist per se, but he’s a landscaper or a builder or whatever else, he has a very creative approach to dealing with stuff, just from being out in the elements of nature and knowing how to cope in certain situations. You just adjust in your everyday life; things seem to fall into place in a way that seems very natural. It’s like a metaphor.”
Trefz grew up in Germany and learned to surf in the North Sea. He has lived, worked, and surfed in Santa Cruz for about 18 years. For about seven of those years, like many in the area, Trefz has wanted to see the MAH host an exhibit dedicated to surfing.
This month, the MAH answers the plea with the opening of, “Surf City Santa Cruz, A Wave of Inspiration,” on view March 27-July 25. Trefz’s film and photography will be featured in the exhibit amidst many other Santa Cruz surfer-artists.
Susan Hillhouse, curator at the MAH, says the exhibit is not being posed as a history exhibit, but an art exhibit focused on capturing the work of Santa Cruz community members who are both museum-worthy artists, and surfers. The museum has left the history aspect to other venues, such as the Lighthouse Surfing Museum, to which the MAH has posted a link on their website.
For the most part, the exhibit will consist of artwork that has an obvious visual and artistic tie to surfing. Included will be paintings, a mural strewn across a museum wall, drawings, photography, film and sculpture—surfboards fashioned by local shapers.
The second floor gallery is different. This gallery includes art that is created by local surfers, but that has little to no connection to surfing.
A broken chair frame makes up one second-floor submission. Sculptor David K. Anderson found the chair strewn in the sand while he wandered down the beach of the San Lorenzo River. At first he shook his head in dismay at the pollution. When he wandered past again, the “beauty” of this discarded object struck him, and he gathered it from the sand to mold into a metal sculpture. Two pieces of Anderson’s work will appear in the second floor gallery of the exhibit. Anderson, a friend of Trefz’s, says that although surfing is a part of his life and at times seeps through in his art, his submitted pieces do not have any tie to surfing.
According to Hillhouse, the budget for the “Surf City Santa Cruz” exhibit will be a bit more steep than usual, as the museum has had to create special elements, including standing frames for surf boards to be displayed vertically rather than horizontally.
The museum recognizes that surfing is an intrinsically communal activity in Santa Cruz. With the MAH’s encouragement, the exhibit has become a community-wide expedition with participating venues including more than eight separate venues countywide.
“I think its a great way to kind of inspire people to check out art, or be aware of art in their surroundings and may be inspired to create art themselves,” Trefz says.
“Surf City Santa Cruz; A Wave of Inspiration” runs March 27 through July 25 at the MAH. Other venues participating with surfing-based exhibitions include the MAH’s Satellite Exhibition space, Lulu’s at the Octagon (Ryan Craig’s surf photographs); Michaelangelo Gallery; Felix Kulpa Gallery; UCSC Sesnon Gallery; Pacific Trading Company; Santa Cruz Surf Museum and San Lorenzo Valley Museum. For more information, visit santacruzmah.org.