You know the screaming blue hand with teeth? No, really, it doesn’t matter how old you are, you’ve probably seen it, or at least an imitation.
This weekend, the Screaming Hand tribute exhibition will be at Escapist Skateboarding in the Crossroads Arts District.
Thirty years ago, California artist Jim Phillips created the Screaming Hand for Santa Cruz Skateboard Co. and revolutionized skate and surfboard art. His style, which is really the style of board art, has been imitated for decades. He has thousands of graphics to his credit.
The Hand has been the brand image for Santa Cruz’s Speed Wheels line, which includes Slime Balls, Bullets and OJs. Phillips, who was the company’s art director, wrote in an email: “From the mid-’70s, I singlehandedly created virtually all of the art and advertising for Santa Cruz.”
He worked off and on with Santa Cruz and in the early 2000s began publishing collections of his skateboard and surfboard art and concert posters. Santa Cruz offers it on its site.
“My books renewed public interest in my skateboard graphics, and I came back to Santa Cruz Skateboards and worked for them independently for a few years until I went into licensing of my now-famous iconic skate graphics with Santa Cruz, which became substantial enough for me to retire after I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.”
The infusion of new interest in Phillips’ work, as well as renewed interest in Santa Cruz Skateboards, sparked the company to honor him with the tribute exhibition.
The 25-city international tour kicked off in July 2015 in Los Angeles and includes about 50 of the top skate and urban artists in the United States. Typically each city adds a few local artists, which will be the case when the show stops at Escapist Skateboarding.
Escapist’s owners, Dan Askew and Nick Owens, host at least six shows a year, all skate-related. They also offer skate demos and screenings of promo videos prior to their national releases.
Askew said they travel to trade shows in California every year that are usually accompanied by an art exhibition. “Our goal was to bring those kinds of events here to Kansas City. That way it gives people who aren’t traveling a chance to see them.”
Phillips is glad the tribute is stopping here.
“I have a particular fondness for Kansas City,” he said. Phillips’ early work was inspired by Walt Disney, who lived in Kansas City for a time as a boy and started his art career here.
The tour features artists playing with Phillips’ iconic image and attempting to make it new. It’s a philosophy Phillips appreciates.
“I have been stunned by the outpouring of artists and ideas and the public reception of these works,” he said, adding, “I have been duly impressed by the thought and variety of the artists’ works.”
The show will run during Escapist’s regular hours, beginning 6-10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday. Escapist is at 405 Southwest Blvd.