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Meet : Stephen Milner, California-based sculptor, photographer, painter and printmaker

Stephen Milner didn’t set out to be a “surf artist” in the traditional sense. The California-based
sculptor, photographer, painter and printmaker (to name a handful of Stephen’s many skills) has
long loved riding waves, but when it came to exploring his favorite pastime through art, it wasn’t
idyllic, curling lip lines that he wanted to focus on so much as surf culture’s expression of

Surf magazines and films have long sold us images of surfers as young, handsome, roguish
men either chasing waves around the globe with their “bros” or posing with a board under one
arm and a bikini-clad model under the other for surf brand advertisements. Stephen keenly
observed that the second you subtract the objectified female figures, surfing’s visual culture
becomes more than a little homoerotic. In his most recent book, “A Spiritual Good Time”,
Stephen leaned into this phenomenon, plundering hundreds of old surf magazines looking to appropriate segments of surf lifestyle images, which he then juxtaposed with shots from gay

The imagery in the project wasn’t explicit at all, but the premise alone was enough to send a
certain segment of the surf population into a moral panic. When an interview with Stephen about
the project ran on, the comments section and related social media posts exploded
with a mix of homophobic drivel and proclamations of support. Stephen had never seen such
strong responses to his work before, but then again, his work had never made its way beyond
art circles and into surfing’s mainstream, either.

For Stephen, however, any conversation or controversy around his work is just another part of
the art itself. The work needs an audience to truly live, and the audience in this case needed the
work to broaden its idea of who surfers are and how they’re represented in surfing culture.
Stephen’s happy to be the one to ruffle those feathers—and something tells us he’s got plenty
more ruffling to do.