Image Maker: Corey Smith
Corey Smith's influence in snowboarding has been immeasurable; his raw approach to snowboarding and style signified a major shift in urban riding. While everyone else was rocking brimmed beanies and baggy cargo pants, Smith showed up in tight jeans with punk-rock ethos and started jumping off of buildings.
Smith had a prominent snowboard career, but eventually he found himself immersed in his art. Yes, Smith is an artist, and a good one at that; his pieces are profound and speak to the absurdities in modern culture. He's been featured in a number of prominent shows and his art has made an impact both inside and outside the small world of snowboarding.
Smith recently left his position as art director at apparel brand COMUNE to focus on his hand-crafted snowboard company, Spring Break, and if his future is reminiscent of his past, it's sure to be epic.
XGames.com: Tell us a little about yourself: where are you from, were you a nerd growing up, did your parents love you?
Corey Smith: I'm a human; I'm originally from Portland, Ore. I guess I was a skateboarder, snowboarder and a burnout, so that's pretty cool. There was a point in junior high when I played D&D, so that's pretty nerdy. I also have asthma and use an inhaler, so that's also nerd cred. Overall I was pretty cool, though.
Do most people know you as Corey Smith the professional snowboarder or Corey Smith the artist?
I hope most people think of me as Corey the human. I don't really dig labels; not that many people I hang out with snowboard or really know anything about snowboarding. They probably just think I'm some weirdo.
Typically if you want to be taken seriously as an artist you don't advertise that you're a snowboarder or a skater, because then you just get lumped in with street art and other sub-par stuff. Not that all street art is sub par, but you know what I mean. As a snowboarder you don't really advertise that you're an artist or people think you're emo or some other super-ignorant adjective.
When did you really start getting recognized for your artistic abilities, and how did that impact your place in snowboarding?
I had one of my first solo shows at KCDC in New York in 2004. That was probably the first time where I felt like I had accomplished something. I've always just made artwork and experimented with creative mediums. I never woke up one day and thought to myself, "I'm going to have an art career." I think if you do that, you're destined for disappointment.
You've had a number of shows and worked on numerous projects; are there any that stand out to you as being big accomplishments in your creative career?
I've had a couple solo shows that I'm really proud of as well as curating the past two COMUNE/Drop City art shows. I think the whole Spring Break thing is one of my most rewarding projects because I'm truly able to combine my two passions.
I feel like I'm just getting started and the best is yet to come. I'm pretty content in my life right now.
One of the reasons I was really excited to interview you is because you speak very candidly about your concerns regarding snowboard culture or lack thereof. What are your thoughts about boarding culture right now?
I used to be really critical of it, but I just don't really have the brain space or patience to worry about it anymore. I think snowboard culture is what you make it. I don't think that if you sit back and talk s*** about it that things will get better. You have to get out there and make things better individually.
I think snowboarding is a lot of different things to a lot of different people; as long as you're not a p**** and you're on a snowboard or a skateboard, we can find some common ground. Snowboarding is a beautiful thing and it should never go unappreciated.
You've been hand-shaping snowboards, right?
Yes, I have. It's been a blast, and it's probably the most fun I've had on snow.
What was the inspiration behind that?
I just wanted to experiment with unique board shapes and see what I could create. My inspiration comes from a variety of places; vintage surf and snowboard shapes are obviously a huge inspiration. I also get a lot of ideas from sci-fi movies, comic books, contemporary design websites and old records.
I've heard people talk about snowboard companies wanting people to have quivers, like in surfing; do you think it could ever shift into people buying a wide range of shapes and sizes for different terrain?
Yeah, I think there will be a small niche of people who have a park/resort board, a street board and a pow surfboard. It doesn't really have to be more complicated than that. A powder surfboard would be the most critical.
What does the future look like for you? Will you turn into an evil genius or just get a surf shack in Mexico?
[Laughs.] Well, probably definitely not a shack in Mexico. I have a little RV that I drive to [Lake] Tahoe [Calif.] and live in. That's my mountain surf shack.
I just want to keep on the path that I'm on. I'm surrounded by positive people and good vibes, and I just want to keep the momentum going. Life is good.
Corey Smith artist portfolio
"This was just a tongue-and-cheek commentary on how funny contemporary art is and the whole Duchampian idea of what you point at is art. This anonymous comic-book artist made this image, then Roy Lichtenstein re-appropriated it in the '60s, then I re-appropriated it again on a commentary about how it's all bulls*** and everything is a rip-off. That's how we learn who cares." (Mixed media on wood panel with gloss resin finish, 2007)
Keep up with Spring Break on Facebook or check them on Twitter at @springbreaksnowboarding.