The artwork of Scott ‘Smashu’ Ackerman was born in the backroom of a church in Kingston, NY. No, it wasn’t the result of too many Hail Marys or a sketchy interaction with a nefarious preacher; the Smashu family lived in the basement of an old church in the middle of the woods. They removed the pews and erected a mini-ramp, luring wandering pros and local sketchballs to their secluded pulpit of shred.
The adjacent backroom, which housed the screens of Loaded Clothing, became Ackerman’s impromptu art studio. In between heated ramp sessions and insane parties, Scott began to paint. Both Loaded & the church ramp are now gone, but the desire to create remained; Ackerman’s art now fills galleries throughout New York.
Least Most: What came first: Bikes or art?
Scott Ackerman: Umm, shit… Art. Art definitely came first.
LM: How old were you when you started painting?
SA: I was about 17.
LM: Is paint the only medium you work with?
SA: I’ve been messing around with little clay sculptures lately, but yeah, mainly just painting & drawing.
LM: What is your inspiration when you paint? Looking at your artwork, there are a lot of different themes.
SA: I feel like I just have a ton of shit in my head sometimes, and I just keep on painting anything that’s in there. It’s not people, it’s not bike riding; I just feel like it’s a lot of weird shit in there and I’ve gotta get it out somehow.
LM: I’ve seen a few portraits with some Jesus/religious undertones. Is there a reason for that?
SA: I just think it’s a funny subject because everyone knows it. I’m not a religious guy, and (religion) is easy to recognize and laugh about.
LM: Do you have any artistic influences?
SA: My Dad, Basquiat, and anyone creative, really.
LM: BMX doesn’t really pop up in any of your pieces, but has riding had any sort of inspiration on your work?
SA: Yeah, yeah definitely; just riding, period. Most days, I just wake up and start painting, but on the days I actually ride, I just feel more active and I see a lot of shit, and hang out with my riding friends and it makes me want to paint more.
LM: Was Loaded Clothing a way for you to combine BMX and art?
SA: Yeah, definitely. Loaded was an awesome way to do it.
LM: Do you still print shirts?
SA: Nah, not since my dads basement, which sucks.
LM: That brings us to the next topic: When I first met you guys, the church was still going strong, which was such a wild place. Everyone was living in the basement, you had random kids & traveling pros popping in to ride, not to mention the parties. How did that affect both your life & your art?
SA: Good question. I loved living in the church, and it definitely changed my life. It opened my eyes to a lot of craziness, and that’s when I really started painting. I stopped riding and started painting right around the end of the church, so it definitely affected my life.
LM: When the church ended, you wound up moving to Hawaii. What drew you there, and what caused you to move back?
SA: When I moved to Hawaii, I was breaking up with my girlfriend, and I was forced to leave the church, even though everyone else could still live there. My friend had a house in Hawaii and told me to come stay there, so it just worked out perfectly. What was the 2nd part of that?
LM: Why did you come back?
SA: I just thought it was crazy to live in a place that was absolutely beautiful everyday. It was ridiculous.
LM: That’s something you never ever hear.
SA: It was retarded! Every single day it was 85 degrees, beautiful weather, never rains… I was going crazy.
LM: Was it hard to actually create anything, or did you just enjoy the surroundings?
SA. I was creating a lot, actually. I had this big open-air porch, and I started painting a lot more. Hardly rode…
LM: Who can blame you, with surfing and all the beautiful shit to check out…
SA: Just sitting on the beach all day drinking 40’s (laughs).
LM: While walking amongst the crowd, I heard a lot of people speaking positively of your work. Is this a common reaction when you do shows?
SA: Yeah, actually…. This is gonna sound kinda crazy, but most of the time I get really, really good reactions. People really seem to connect to (my work) and like it. I just did a show in Holland, and I was really nervous about that, but everyone loved it.
LM: How did you end up doing a show in Holland?
SA: Through Christina Varga and the Woodstock Art Association. They were having an exchange program, and they chose 5 Woodstock artists to go, and I got picked.
LM: Where else have you done gallery openings?
SA: Mainly just around Woodstock/Kingston. I’ve had 6 shows in NYC, and I did one in Hawaii. Mainly just around wherever I’ve lived.
LM: Is there anything you’re trying to accomplish through painting, or is it something you just do for fun?
SA: Totally just for fun. I hope people like it and want to look at more stuff, because I’m going to keep doing it.
LM: Have you sold many pieces?
SA: Yeah, lately I’ve been selling a lot. I just sold 20 paintings to a lady in Texas, just some random lady. Day before Christmas, too.
LM: How did she find your stuff?
SA: Facebook (laughs).
LM: This last question comes from Crandall: Is it weird being weird?
SA: (laughs) I think Crandall is a lot weirder than me.
All photos courtesy of Bryan Tarbell.