Sag Harbor’s Surfari Crossroads: A New Kind of Art Gallery
This year, a new wave of surf culture hits Sag Harbor with a warm, friendly, and distinctly crossbred creative vibe. Ideally situated just north of the Muse and steps from the roundabout intersection of Main and Bay Streets, 16B Main Street has been transformed into Surfari Crossroads—an art space like no other, a collaborative work by two avid surfers— owner, local realtor and entrepreneur John Healey and artist Greg Miller.
The space will exclusively feature Miller’s one-of-a-kind, hand-painted and collaged works rendered on vintage, recycled surfboards, already must-haves for many collectors. Though the gallery’s name evokes the spirit of an adventurous journey, the convergence of East and West Coast sensibilities, and the cross-pollination of Miller and Healey’s talents, it also pays homage to Miller’s pioneering ancestor, Sophary Euer, a Swiss immigrant who began a Sierra Mountain dairy in the mid 1850s and whose name endured through generations.
In fact, Surfari Crossroads is born of both Healey and Mller’s family and personal histories as well as their shared afﬁnity for the sport of surﬁng and an abiding love for authentic American culture. Inspired by iconic Pop Art imagery of the 1960s and 70s, Miller’s work—sometimes referred to as “post-pop” or “neo-pop”—is featured in numerous museums and in private collections that have traveled internationally, including the Charles Saatchi Collection and the Frederick R. Weisman Collection.
As one critic has put it, Miller’s work is “joyful, exuberant…free of irony if not obsession.” There is an unmistakable sense of play enmeshed in the details. “All my paintings are covered in surfboard resin,” Miller explains, which gives his work an inimitably ebullient gloss and energy, sealing a cumulative rendering of narrative layers to a cohesive and somewhat sculptural effect. “I paint paintings on top of paintings on top of paintings. I’ll glue down something I love, like an old Steinbeck book page for page, and create another painting on top of that; I build up sort of an abstract history.”
In the mid-80s, while still residing in his native state, Miller began applying his painting approach directly to surfboards themselves. “I would go around Venice Beach, collect old surfboards that people were throwing away and considered useless, paint on them and donate them to charities like St. Jude’s. I loved the mythology and heroic quality of the boards, each one having its own secret history, but I really only did that on the side, as donations, until collectors started to become interested. The boards just really caught on.”
Now commissioned by corporate and private collectors all over the world, Greg’s surfboard paintings can be found everywhere from the beach to high-end art galleries and fairs. Lately, he’s been reveling as much in creating new boards as he does in plying the waves. Although Miller has made something valuable by bringing the boards back to life, he never considered creating a gallery installation around them, much less a whole gallery space designed to show these works exclusively.
That’s where he found inspiration from his new friend, John Healey. After moving to East Hampton from Austin last year, the West Coast born-and-bred artist discovered the vibrant East End surf scene, with more than a little help from Healey. Miller and Healey quickly realized that they shared more than a passion for surﬁng. They soon found themselves conjuring a vision for a new kind of art gallery experience whose vibe would reﬂect the welcoming, laid-back, creative spirit of the surfboard “shaper’s shops” both men were drawn to as boys. “We’re calling it ‘the shop’ because it evokes that feeling we both got as kids on either side of the country, watching boards being shaped while a group of surfers hung out in a comfortable community with a common bond,” says Healey. “Surﬁng is an addiction that anyone can have, whether you’re good at it or not. It’s not about being good or getting better; it’s about enjoying this direct relationship with a force of nature. It’s a sport unlike any other, and the energy around it is so joyful and infectious it crosses all boundaries of gender, race, status, and generations.”
In keeping with the themes of community, family, and the enduring American spirit of perpetual motion, many of the boards used for Surfari Crossroads works are coming from Long Island’s oldest surf shops. By recycling the retired boards collected in the East and West Coast surf spots, Surfari Crossroads gives life and a new story back to boards with long histories, infused with the energies and passions of their riders. In these artworks, the surfboard becomes canvas, palimpsest, and metaphor, evoking a distinct energy and ﬂow. As Miller puts it, “there is something very positive about a surfboard.”
To view more of Miller’s Artwork, visit gmillerstudio.com