By Jessie Van Roechoudt
Considering how much creative and artistic talent exists within skateboarding, it was only a matter of time before someone recognized it and established a forum for skateboarding’s artists to unite and exhibit their work for the masses.
That’s where Modart came in.
Modart was started by Mona Mukherjea-Gehrig and Shaney Jo Darden. The first exhibit was held in San Diego during the September 1998 ASR trade show. “We wanted to provide an environment and a space for all of our friends to come together. And a lot of our peers as well,” says Darden.
“Mona worked at TransWorld Media for years, and she knew lots of artists and I knew lots of designers, so we figured, ‘Why not bring everyone together and throw a party?’ The reason we did it in the first place was to do something cultural that was within our industry and in our city,” Darden continues. “At that time, no one was doing stuff like what we were doing.”
Darden says the response after the first Modart in 1998 was amazing. “Everyone was stoked. We weren’t expecting anything. We got lots of press without even trying.”
The relationship between Modart and skateboarding is intimate. “Creative action breeds active creation,” says Darden, repeating the organization’s tag line. “It’s the belief that movement inspires creativity. A lot of it has to do with growing up in skateboarding for sure, and in Southern California—it’s a part of my life. So in a sense, you do what you know.
“Also, we really felt that when Mona was working at TransWorld Media, there were so many artists in skateboarding that weren’t really recognized that way—that they are really artists and not just graphic designers or dudes who scribble on paper.”
Change Is Good
With significant exposure since its advent, Modart has grown considerably. It’s gone from being a single exhibit in San Diego to being a nationally recognized event within the skateboard and snowboard art communities.
In the summer of 1999 and 2000, Modart traveled along with Vans through Canada and the United States as part of the summer Warped Tour. “It’s grown a lot,” says Darden. “We’ve been seen by a lot of people. Being on the Warped Tour exposed us nationwide.” On 1999’s Warped Tour, Modart held an exhibition called Camp Modart which featured both an art and fashion show.
“One really cool thing with the art and being on the Warped Tour was seeing the kids,” continues Darden. “They know this art. So being in the middle of the country, they were really excited to see it firsthand—like an Ocean Howell, Margaret Kilgallen, or Andy Jenkins piece—they recognized it.” Due to the increase of recognition in skateboarding art, artists are getting more and more opportunities to display their work. “There’s more anthem and archetype now,” Darden explains. “Artists now are getting a lot more recognition, which is really cool. That’s the main thing that’s changed since we’ve started doing Modart.”
Without doubt, the relationship between Modart and skateboarding isn’t stationary. Darden and Mukherjea-Gehrig agree that it’s evolving into the future. Darden’s view is simple: “For us, it’s important in a way to stay true to what’s special to us, which is skateboarding. That also gives Modart its niche. We definitely work with a lot of snowboarding, but rarely ever work with surfing. For no reason other than that, it’s just not our scene.”
Keep A Breast
Beyond art exhibits, Modart holds Keep A Breast shows to raise money for breast-cancer research and awareness.
Keep A Breast first appeared in 2000, in Tahoe at Boarding For Breast Cancer. One of the show’s two beneficiaries is the Breast Cancer Fund in San Francisco. “They raise money for research,” says Darden. “A lot of what they’re interested in is environmental and how that affects your body. The other beneficiary is the Asha Kilgallen McGee Fund, in honor of Margaret Kilgallen, a well-known artist among our group. She died of breast canr this year. Asha is her daughter—Margaret had just given birth to her and passed away a few weeks later.”
This year’s Keep A Breast show was held in New York City at the Triple Five Soul store on October 3. Last year Keep A Breast shows were held in San Francisco, New York City, and Tahoe.
Overall, both Darden and Mukerjea-Gehrig don’t have any definite plans for future shows, as they’re in the process of weighing their options. “We have invitiations to do shows in different parts of the world,” says Darden. “There’s nothing concrete planned for the future, but it’ll be something new.”
Darden feels all the recent competition is only more reason for Modart to maintain its niche: “We don’t want to be like other people. We want to stay true to what we do and not diffuse ourselves with too much of what other people are doing. With so much other stuff being out there now, it would be dumb for us to do another show like what anyone else is doing.”
Modart provides a way for artists within the skate community to exhibit their artwork in a gallery environment, while at the same time having their art accessible to the larger skate community that converges at events such as the Action Sports Retailer (ASR) trade show.
“Modart is truly a labor of love,” says Darden.
Connect 4 Show Is A Hit
San Diego Modart show features fewer artists and bigger crowds.
By Jessie Van Roechoudt
The Modart Connect 4 show was held on September 6 at The Reincarnation Project gallery in San Diego. Organized by Modart’s Shaney Jo Darden and Mona Mukherjea-Gehrig, Darden says exhibiting fewer artists this year enabled the participating artists to have more space to display fuller bodies of their work.
Featured artists included Angela Boatwright, Andrew Pommier, Deanna and Ed Templeton, Natas Kaupas, Grant Brittain, , Brian Gaberman, Shepard Fairey, and Richard Hart.
Boatwright says that due to the larger number of artists included in previous shows, the element of quantity versus quality was present. She says this year’s format was better: “It came together really well, with the artists being able to show a good amount of quality work.”
Another change to the format of Connect 4, compared to previous Modart shows, was the cost of tickets for attendees. For the first time ever, admission tickets to the event ran for fifteen dollars, but only for tickets purchased at the door to avoid overcrowding by passers-by. “The cost of doing that event is so high,” says Darden. “We raised the ticket price because we were afraid that too many people were coming. All of the sponsors get about a hundred VIP tickets each—and there were over ten sponsors. So there were about a thousand people there—and about a thousand VIPs there with the tickets we gave away.” In past years, people who arrived with passes could not get in because too many people had already entered the show.
Despite this crowd-control strategy, the show was still packed, and incredibly well organized. Even those waiting in line at the bar were treated to a slide show featuring the artwork of artists from TransWorld Media on a screen hanging above the bar.
Darden said that both she and Mukherjea-Gehrhig were pleased with how the show went, and that they usually break even on their shows.
An interesting yet peculiar event of the evening was how hanging photos labeled as Deanna Templeton’s at the beginning of the evening were later crossed out with Ed’s name etched in with a sharpie marker. Likewise, photos originally signed with Ed Templeton’s name, were later “edited” with the marker to state his wife Deanna’s name. It’s unsure whether this was a simple labeling mistake or if the Templetons saw this as an opportunity to segue into the realm of conceptual art as a mode of commentary on the gender politics of artistic fame.
While the art is the most prevalent part of the Connect 4 show, there was also music throughout the evening with a fashion show exhibiting clothing from many of the event’s sponsors.
The evening’s music started off with the relaxing music of Cory Branan. As more people arrived and the party pace sped up, so did the music, with Damon Way performing as DJ Cassette along with Tron Electroclash and Nuwave, followed by the Cultifadaz and a short set by Bostich to wrap up the evening’s events.m many of the event’s sponsors.
The evening’s music started off with the relaxing music of Cory Branan. As more people arrived and the party pace sped up, so did the music, with Damon Way performing as DJ Cassette along with Tron Electroclash and Nuwave, followed by the Cultifadaz and a short set by Bostich to wrap up the evening’s events.