Living in Style: Brian Bent

Brian Bent is not pretending or acting. He is what, and whom, he presents himself to be. And he is great.

What he presents, is a hot-rodding rockabilly surfer circa 1968, or maybe 1953, I can’t pin down exactly when. You can find images of him all over the internet riding a checkered surfboard while wearing a striped shirt and captain’s cap, ya know, like the one Thurston Howell III wore on Gilligan’s Island.

The pics look great. But what is even better, is that on any given day you can easily run into Brian out in the lineup at Doheny or San Onofre, and he will look exactly like he does in those photos, and he will ride that log for all its worth. He can surf.

When he is done he will haul that log into the parking lot, load it onto a homemade hot rod, and head home to paint.

His paintings are what first caught my attention.

People have been paying attention to his art for decades. He is not new. His work is a loose mix of what appears to be fashion illustration, shapes, and storytelling. He renders spindly stylized characters like you might imagine would exist if Jack Skellington targeted the world of Gidget. He made a splash back in the 80’s when he was designing the interiors of the Becker surf shops and his work was eventually picked up by galleries. He has been and still is, producing.

Producing as in continually creating. Making. All sorts of stuff.

I met Brian as he and his wife were headed from the beach back to their car. I was (still am) just some soggy kook in a wetsuit hollering “Hey Brian” and they stopped and graciously listened as I told Brian I loved his art. He was gracious. They were nice.

Then last weekend he opened up his home for a “garage sale” and Mrs. Hammas and I went to check it out. The Bents were exactly as they appeared at the beach, super gracious, and their home is the best representation of a stylized life I have ever seen. They execute a designed life to perfection.

In front of their modest sized house is a teal, tailfinned car with anchors painted on the cab, then three steel home-made hot rods, and of course all the vehicles are outfitted to carry a surf board. In the garage are tools upon tools and a quiver of hand painted longboards next to a pile of banged up single tailed skateboards.

The house is a collection of mid-mod vignettes made up of furniture, instruments, and art. Skatalites played on a record player, easy going people not wearing shoes milled about the kitchen, and the Bents appeared sincerely happy we were there. They showed us around, shared a bit about their life, and went out of their way to make us feel comfortable.

And I was. Thanks to them.

This comfort came largely from the Bent’s authenticity. The 60’s, or 40’s for that matter, are long gone and most of us do not dress or design a life like the Bent’s so it might be natural to assume they might be a little… weird. Or act eccentric. But they don’t. They are, again, normal. In the best possible way. In the way that makes a person a real person rather than a performance. In a way that makes Brian a master of style rather than a relic.

Brian is not living in the past, he is living in style.

And I didn’t even get to his music.

Slightly Choppy: Scott makes cool stuff

Scott saw me gawking through the open door and invited me in. The studio isn’t in a general retail space, situated upstairs from a real estate agent, but he didn’t appear all that surprised to see a visitor. I suspect it happens regularly.

Scott Richards runs, or rather is, a company that produces hand painted nautical flags denoting the West Coast’s favorite surf spots.  I asked him if he considered these triangular canvas flags nautical, or if they are pennants, and he just shrugged. That sort of technicality, or rather strict terminology, does not appear to be his concern. He rather offhandedly added that he would suppose they are pennant like in their one sidedness but nautical in their construction, which tells me he has thought all of this through, he is not flippant, just casual and unconcerned. What is important is that he makes them, and that people, including himself, like them.

I like them too.

Scott went to art school and came out as a “visual communicator, the air quotes were all his. He went on to work with all the cool kids at the cool companies, Quiksilver et all, but has now decided to spend his time just making cool stuff. Less corporate, more making, and if you wander around his studio space, because he will let you do that, it is obvious that this guy is tactile. Little knick-knacks and block prints fill all the open spaces on shelves and in corners, objects and made images, the sorts of things that aren’t ads, but advertisers work hard to incorporate. This place isn’t so much projecting an “image” but is very much making the base level stuff on which images are built. It is hard not to love it. All of it.

We chatted a bit about art, about surfing (how I’m really bad at it), and a bit about business. He is doing a National Park series, all sorts of custom orders, it looked like things are going great but mostly they just seemed relaxed and happy. I left appreciating not just what Scott Makes, but enjoying the whole thing. Scott’s studio, the company, the company he keeps, the way he goes about all of it. It is materialism done right.

Less of needing and wanting more stuff and accumulating or winning- more of the taking what is tangible and crafting meaning and value.

For me, it’s Doheny.

CRT Simplified, Conclusion

That’s pretty much it. There is of course a full library of Critical Race Theory scholarship that goes much deeper, but what I have shared the past few days is enough to give anyone a working idea of CRT’s foundation and elements.

So let me add, here at the end, what Critical Race Theory is NOT.

It is not about hating America. Or hating White people.

It is not about blame.

There may be some who, thanks to these tenets, learn something about this country and then feel some animosity, anger, or possibly hatred- but those things are not principles of the Critical Race Theory framework. Those things (animosity, anger, hate) can grow from any number of sources, including from learning truth. This does not mean we should avoid truth to alleviate anger.

Maybe some would prefer that tactic? Willful ignorance?

Either way, angry or otherwise, a patient being diagnosed with cancer should not blame their illness on the diagnosing doctor.

CRT is very much about diagnosis and understanding what is, or has been, happening and why.I have not read a single article or study by any Critical Race Theory expert, who upon making a find, prescribed hate as a solution.

The Holiday Reunion We All Need

Nostalgia is a key ingredient in the potpourri of holiday cheer, and for in this dumpster fire of a year, this is the Christmas reunion I need.

Outkast is solidly enshrined in the pantheon of Hip-Hop legends as well as being respected fashion templates, but what many might not know, is that their first big break was on a Christmas album.

In 1993 Atlanta based LaFace Records released an album featuring songs from their stable of acts including TLC, Toni Braxton, Usher, and introducing this young rap duo called Outkast.

A lot has changed since those days, Big Boi did not yet tend a house full of exotic animals and Andre had not yet donned an old lady turban, yet my love for them persists. 2020 needs an Outkast Christmas concert. I also demand it be held at the back lot of Four Seasons Total Landscaping.

Black Lives Matter: who are you listening too about “them”?

If you are a White person and think calls to reform or even defund police departments sound ridiculous, or extreme, might I request that you consider the following:

If you are not Black, or do not live in a predominantly Black neighborhood, then how are you getting information about what is happening in the Black community? Is it from Black people in those communities? If not, why not? Is your source a Black person you know personally or is it via mass media or reposted social media? How reliable is your information and the perspective it brings?

What is different in their experience that would lead them to such a proposal? Perhaps, the danger you foresee in a police-less state, already exists in some communities. If you lived in a violent neighborhood, and the police department is part of that violence, is it really crazy to want to change? Or crazy to want to shut down a department?

Have you read the Ferguson Report?

Do not assume that those calling for these measures are stupid, or that you are simply smarter than them.

Black Lives Matter

1. Bad intentions and bad choices are equally distributed throughout the population without regard to race or wealth.
2. The consequences of bad intentions and actions are NOT equal for all races and social classes.

This indicates there is a systematic issue that cannot simply be solved by teaching one group to make better choices.