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Best known for his parts in East Coast video staples like Vicious Cycle, and his now infamous role in SLAP “One in a Million”, “Lurker” Lou Sarowsky’s been getting noticed more recently as a sculptor, creating a plethora of unique and often ingenious works of “skart”, ranging from VX1000s cast in resin and filled with all sorts of ephemera, to repurposed vintage and trashed electronic waste from a Brooklyn recycling center, all while continuing to put out full length video parts.
Sarowsky moved from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to New York City full time in April, 2003, making visits back several times a year before the pandemic. When COVID-19 hit New York, he was quick to get out, returning in early March to his hometown of Dennisport on the Cape. Unfortunately, his reasons for leaving were not just to avoid the pandemic itself.
“My wife is Chinese and Japanese and totally felt a different vibe in the city towards Asians,” he says. “She would come home from work in late-January and early-February saying people were being really nasty towards her on the train. Then my landlord warned us to stock up and get ready for the virus and quarantine. With two dogs and work as a laborer in the photo and film industry that I knew was getting cancelled, I decided to bounce. I could landscape to make money for the time being, prior to unemployment.”
Cape Cod is described by Google as “a hook-shaped peninsula of the U.S. state of Massachusetts…a popular summertime destination. It's the site of quaint villages, seafood shacks, lighthouses, ponds, and bay and ocean beaches.” It was also made famous as the location of Stephen Spielberg’s iconic film, Jaws, and for its island Martha’s Vineyard occupying the vacation home of John F. Kennedy.
Coincidentally, I had a trip to Cape Cod planned for early August with my girlfriend’s family before any of this madness broke out. We decided to take the calculated risk to go in order to spend time with her family. Ahead of the trip, I reached out to Sarowsky to see if we might be able to connect and skate a bit while I was there. It turns out that the house her family had rented for the week was practically around the corner from Sarowsky’s mom’s house - the very same home he grew up in and where he was currently staying. So, I managed to sneak away for a couple of days during the week and get a glimpse at the skating and artwork he’s been doing since the pandemic started.
Anyone who follows Sarowsky on Instagram knows that he hasn’t been spending quarantine inside playing video games and rewatching The Office like many of us. Instead, he’s been hammering out new sculptures from his makeshift studio in his mom’s yard. Before meeting up with him I’d seen photos online of shoes with moss growing out of them and old Spitfire wheels hidden in rocks along the seashore, but I had no idea of the extent he had fully transformed his home into a living sculpture garden.
Every nook and cranny of the yard had some touch of his artwork - Nike SB Dunks in a corner had sprouted leaves growing up through them from the earth. Wheels, trucks, license plates and old bottles had been placed into trees so long ago that the trees had grown around and through them. There was even a manhole taken from NYC and placed to become part of the surroundings of the garden.
Sarowsky started transforming his childhood yard back in 2005, when he was home and wanted to take advantage of the summer weather to paint and work outdoors. He began “working things into trees as living sculptures.” Fascinated by how trees can grow into metal and other objects, he started looping skateboard parts through branches to see what would happen.
After he showed me around, we left to go skate the spot Sarowsky had been frequenting all summer: his elementary school, where while revisiting an old stomping ground, he had recently learned a new trick. It’s always fun to go back to childhood spots with an adult skater’s mind and skillset, and Sarowsky’s extended stay home has allowed him to do more of that.
“I’ve been lurking these spots for the last couple years wanting to shoot stuff, so I’m pretty comfortable with my old stomping grounds,” he says. “I honestly didn’t think I could get a filmer or photographer here. I had no idea how to front wallride when I came to the Cape in March. I basically forced myself to learn the trick due to how perfect it would be for the spot. The best part is learning a new trick at 36-years-old at my elementary school.”
When we met up again later in the week, Sarowsky showed me the sculptures he was most excited about. The first piece was a granite skateboard. It was the same size and shape as your average deck, and had the same smoothness as a freshly pressed board, except made of stone.
“I think it might be my favorite piece I’ve done so far,” he says. “What makes it special for me is that I am very new to working with stone. To accomplish something that is so slim and shapely with a fragile stone like granite felt like a large accomplishment this early in carving.”
Sarowsky had plenty of experience with other raw materials, making molds, and other sculptor's skill sets, but his newfound interest in stone started two weeks into quarantine.
“I wanted to drill a hole in a rock to put in a tree,” he explains. “While I was shopping for diamond bits I realized it said 51mm. Then it dawned on me to put a wheel stuck in a rock due to the lockdown on everything. It would represent no skating and staying inside pretty literally, I thought. I started slowly, but three months in I was investing in tools, diamond blades, [and] taking on more ambitious projects with larger blocks of granite. You really start to see the sculptures in the blocks of stone like what I’ve heard other carvers say. It’s incomparable to anything I’ve worked on in the past.”
Skateboards are already designed to be destructible art. Illustrators and designers put so much time into graphics that will survive sometimes mere minutes as a new set up. Sarowsky went even further and made a piece of actual artwork that was literally created to be skated and destroyed: a granite pyramid/wedge, dubbed “The Wabi-Sabi Wallie,” with wheels placed into it and symbolic carvings on either side.
“I wanted to make an obstacle out of some sort of granite,” he says of the sculpture. “While I was in the stoneyard I saw a triangle piece perfect for a spine. I knew I wouldn't have to cut too much stone off it to make it skateable. After relaxing in the ocean to relieve myself from intensive stone cutting, I thought I’d try and give the work somewhat of a story: quarried in the mountains and carved for its final spot by the ocean. Skating from one side to the other gives the person a feeling of accomplishment. Getting over that mountain to enjoy that ocean is similar to riding away from a trick on the sculpture. For the ocean side, I drilled a hole and placed a yellowed wheel as the sun with carved rays. On the mountain side I carved a wheel out of granite to represent the moon in a new stage.”
We skated it for a while in a parking lot near his house, and even knowing it’s purpose, when I inevitably chipped it I immediately felt a wave of terror pass through me, knowing the effort that went into it. Discussing how he can come to terms with the unavoidable destruction of the piece Sarowsky says:
“I pick and choose my battles carving stone. Knowing this piece would be altered by skaters I didn’t go completely perfect like the deck. Considering the wabi-sabi mentality with my wife she said, ‘It’s beautiful to everyone so let it’s imperfections be overlooked or shine to others.’ So, I let parts of the sculpture stay rough and wonky while carving other parts to my perfection. The sculpture is in constant work with new marks and chips being added after every session so it is complete evolution and destruction at once.”
Sarowsky’s artwork is deeply connected to his home. In the literal sense of it being an actual part of his mother’s yard, and also how by placing it in nature and the beaches of his town, he allows the location and environment itself to shape the work, the same way skating will evolve the “Wabi-Sabi Wallie”. Storms hit and branches fall. Tides come in and out and slowly erode the urethane wheels hidden in the jetty’s of Dennisport. Nature lends its own invisible hand to the second life of his sculpture.
When asked if he plans to ever return to the city and leave behind the outdoor art world he has created on the Cape, Sarowsky is optimistic, but not in any rush.
“I’m not giving up my apartment in Brooklyn. I want to enjoy the rest of this nice weather by the beach till summer is over. Help my family with what they need. See what fall and winter has in store for us. Ideally, I would like to work for a stone carver or engraver in New York. Would be nice to fizzle the photoshoots off for something more fruitful.”
All Photography: Cole Giordano
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