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On Deck 7 shows skateboard art gone wild

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For the past seven years, the Montana Skatepark Association has mailed out blank skateboard decks to artists and waited to see what came back. More often than not, the return packages offered bizarre discovery after delightfully bizarre discovery. Each artist received the same thing—just the blank deck, nothing else—but managed to turn it into a reflection of his or her own aesthetic.

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"I've said it before, but I feel like the show mimics skateboarding in that everyone gets the same tool, but each one does something different with it," says Andy Kemmis, who's been involved with the On Deck art auction since its inception. "You get to see so many different styles and techniques, just like you would among a group of riders at the skatepark. There doesn't seem to be any limit to what people think of each year."

On Deck 7, which debuts May 4 during a First Friday reception at the Brink Gallery, is no exception to what's become one of Missoula's more anticipated and unusual annual art shows. Among the 40 boards on display and up for auction this year is a sculpture by Missoula woodworker Taylor Haworth of what looks like a mutated aardvark head—or is it "ALF" from the old TV series?—mounted on a blood red-stained deck; it's titled "Larry." There's also an acrylic landscape by Los Angeles-based artist Nathan Spoor called "The Tourists," with a deep blue sea, a sky full of thick clouds and a solitary teddy bear clutching a floating balloon. Andrea Leggitt of Missoula's Salty and Sweet Design used a 300-pound laser cutter to carve mechanical renderings of vintage cameras into her deck. Loryn Zerr, also from Missoula, created something that doesn't even look like it's for the same exhibition: a profile of Pele, the Hawaiian god of fire, cut out from the original deck so the god's hand extends beyond the end of the board, dangling a pendant in the air. Zerr's piece also features an erupting volcano, with the smoke made of twisted wire.

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"We're never quite sure what we're going to get and there's a certain faith that goes along with working with the artists," says Kemmis. "But, like with Nathan, who's done the show before, we opened it this year and were like, 'Yep, that's going to get some attention. That's going to raise some money.'"

In the seven years the MSA has run the auction, the event's prestige among the artistic and skateboarding communities has grown. That means more artists applying to be involved—the MSA had to choose from among nearly 100 applications this year—and a consistently high-quality show. "I feel like that's the thing that's changed the most since we started—the level of the artists and their boards has been well and above awesome," says Chris Bacon, president of the MSA.

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No other name this year signifies the event's rise better than internationally acclaimed Japanese artist Haroshi. Anonymous local art collectors purchased one of his signature sculptures—a fire hydrant made entirely of recycled skateboard decks, fused together like a mosaic—from a Los Angeles art show earlier this year, and donated the piece for display during On Deck 7. The piece, as is customary with all of Haroshi's work, includes a hidden metal skateboard piece in the center that's intended to give it a "soul." As a bonus, once Haroshi heard of the Missoula event, he sent a signed, limited-edition print of another of his sculptures, "Middle Finger," for the auction. It's Haroshi's first-ever print.

In addition to Haroshi, Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament continued his involvement with the show this year. The local shredder—he has a skatepark at his Missoula home—offered up a deck he designed himself and that will adorn the cover of his upcoming solo album.

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Even with the bigger names and established artists, Kemmis and Bacon say they've worked hard to maintain the event's local focus.

"We walk a line every year, and make sure there are always some new names and a lot of Montana artists," says Kemmis. "I think as long as everyone keeps coming up with new ideas for what to do with a piece of a skateboard, we'll be in good shape."

The Brink Gallery, 111 W. Front St., hosts an opening reception for On Deck 7 Friday, May 4, beginning at 5 p.m. Bidding ends on Friday, but the exhibition will be on display throughout the month. Proceeds from the auction will pay for new features and repairs at the MOBASH Skatepark. Visit montanaskatepark.org/ondeck for more information.

Editor's note: An editing mistake in the original story incorrectly stated Haroshi's contributions to the exhibit. The story was updated on Thursday, May 3. The Indy regrets the error.

Four other First Friday finds

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  • Ben Malouf’s 3-D art

Ben Malouf is a little like Scotty from "Star Trek," except instead of beaming things from place to place he hits "print" on a 3-D printer and can recreate almost anything in plastic. It's weird, and must be seen to be believed. Lucky for us, the Media Arts graduate student has an exhibition of his 3-D printed sculptures, and a live demonstration of his futuristic process, at Fisher Video Conferencing, 135 W. Main St., from 5 to 8 p.m.

Music-fusion painting is not nearly as complex as it soundsor as complex as 3-D printing, for that matterbut it's still a sight to see. It's basically fine art as performance, and in this case Jason Bohman, who has painted alongside local bands Miller Creek, Zeppo MT and Butter, will be working live on stage at Draught Works, 915 Toole Ave, from 5 to 9 p.m.

Eva Champagne caps her two-year residency at the Clay Studio of Missoula with an exhibition titled Littoral Drift. The title has to do with tides and currents, and her ceramic work has a distinctly quirky, definitively aquatic vibe. Opening reception begins at 5:30 p.m. and goes until 9, with the show on display through May 25. The Clay Studio is located at 1106 Hawthorne St.

This one means a little something to the Independent: Former editorial intern Kyle Lehman suffered a traumatic brain injury earlier this year while biking across the country. Local artists are holding an auction to benefit the Kyle Lehman Recovery Fund at Hellgate Cyclery, 316 N. Higgins (in the alley), beginning at 5 p.m.

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