Words and photos by Nathan Myers
"This trip was kind of an experiment," explains Chris Del Moro, standing over a pile of vintage reggae vinyl and ignoring his own art show. "The goal was to create everything locally, work purely with local materials and just get inspired by Indo in general. It went so well, I think I'm gonna do this everywhere I go now."
After a year painting flash activism murals on the road with Rasta's Surfers 4 Cetaceans crew, Chris has gotten adept at art on the run. Roadside whale murals. Sudden sand painting. Cosmic beach sculptures. And now this: scrap-yard wood and discarded windowpanes re-imagined into beatific odes to oceanic one-ness.
"These pieces were already beautiful before I started painting them," he says. "I just opened myself up to their inspiration."
Hmmm, I smell hippie.Yeah, okay…Chris admits it. His shirt even reads: "Hippies use side door." His beard even supports a small bird. He'll sometimes describe his creative process as "opening up to the universe" and "letting it all just come to him." But hey, it's what artists do (I tried to just let the universe write this blog post for me… nah, nothing.)
You could try to give him a hard time about it, but it would be wasted energy. The guy is so unflinchingly positive, so unerringly humble, so goddamn NICE…it's impossible to hold it against him.
"You know, I was a bit chubby when I was a little kid," says Chris. "I was a nice kid, just a little chubby. And people were pretty mean to me because of it. But that taught me how to deal with that negative energy and not become part of it."
Now, lean, vegan, and epicly beardish, Del Moro floats ravenously over a box of vintage reggae and impromptu DJ's the re-opening of Seminyak's expanded and re-soulified Drifter Surf Shop. It's a classic scene here, board racks stuffed with Terry Fitzgerald's cosmic darts, Danny Hess big-wave guns and Machado "Drifter" Biscuits; bookshelves stacked with Kerouac, Kesey and Bukowski (Drifter's "boat-trip lit"); and the most eclectic surf DVD collection in Bali. Even the partygoers are a funky mixed bag of pro surfers, artists and expat vagabonds.
But Del Moro's just manning the record player. "I never know what to do with myself at these events," he says. "But I know what to do with these records."
SURFING: "Freesurfer/artist guy" seems about the best job in the world. What's the key to making it work?
CHRIS DEL MORO: For me, it's clarity, being genuine, and just putting 100% into anything you do. When you decide to put 100% into something, there's no way it can't work out.
Did this path just naturally come for you, or did it require a leap of faith?
Actually, I'd given up on the whole concept of being paid to surf. I went to college, got an education, worked on organic farms, did manual labor…it was hard. Through all that, I got connected to the right people and things just started happening. Things tend to work out easier when they're genuine, I think.
How did this show come about?
It just came together through mutual friends. Tim [Russo] from Drifter Surf Shop offered me an art show to accompany the reopening of the shop. The last time I was in Bali I was 16 years old, so it seemed like a good opportunity to get back. A lot has changed.
What made you want to create the art here in Bali?
You know, so many times when you go on a surf trip you're so focused on the waves that you miss the local culture. This was a way for me to settle in a bit more and connect with Bali in a different way. We even just bailed to the mountains for a little while and did some other things, and I always feel like I surf better when I take time away from the ocean. I come back and boards just feel faster and livelier.
You were staying up at Uluwatu most of the time, right?
Oh man, Tim's set me up in the Uluwatu Surf Villas right on the cliff up there. It's such an iconic and powerful spot, I'd say a big part of the show was inspired by that place. It's a really powerful energy up there. And to wake every morning right on the wave, you can't get better than that.
With his section from the new Sight + Sound II movie dominating the flat screen, Del Moro rocks his one-man show ’til the grand opening is grand closed. Then he rushes home to pack for Alaska, where he's meeting up with Taylor Steele's transpacific swell-chase project. After that, he's kayaking down the California coast with Rasta's S4C Transparent Sea project, where he'll surely be creating plenty more liquid art on the run.
"This Alaska trip just popped up last minute," he says, "but the Transparent Sea trip has been almost a year of planning. We're really trying to raise some awareness about the issues in this region, from coastal debris to river run-off to shipping lanes to starving whale syndrome…"
"What's starving whale syndrome?" I ask.
"Basically, whales are spending more and more time out at sea trying to get food rather than getting down to the birthing bays of Mexico where they should be," he says. "So they're finding all these skinny, emaciated whales out there."
"I bet those whales skinny whales would photograph well though," I suggest.
"That's perfect for fashion week," he laughs. "But we like our whales nice and chubby."
I try to think of something clever to say about chubby whales, but I can't.
Check out Chris's cosmic blog at: http://collecticlife.blogspot.com/
And feel free to join Del Moro, Rasta and others this October as they kayak down the Cali coast with a herd of friendly grey whales, educating, entertaining and, of course, surfing. Get more details right here: http://transparentseavoyage.com —Nathan Myers