I’ve been friends with Aaron Rose a long time—circa 1990? I’ve shown my art in his former Alleged Gallery in NYC, he included my work in his seminal book, Dysfunctional, I’ve buttfucked him right in the mouth, and I’m honored to say that he invited me to hang a piece in that first skate art show he curated in Hollywood at Gallery X . So I’ve always known Aaron as a CURATOR. I know he is creative and makes art—I love his art—but who doesn’t make art? I think of the art curator as sort of like a football fan—even though he doesn’t actually play the game himself, he’s very passionate about it and sometimes he likes to toss the ole pigskin around with his bros at the beach. I’m guilty of thinking of Aaron as a curator first and forget that he does actually play football—artball, whatever.
The art-crammed walls of Aaron's first curated show at Gallery X in Los Angeles, circa 1993.
“Do other people do that to you, too?” I asked, “Like forget that you make art and that you’re not just this curator guy, is that common?”
“Yeah. It is,” Aaron said chuckling. “I blame society. I just think that this current generation-Z—whatever they call this current generation—because of social media, they’re much more comfortable with, what they call, a ‘multi-hyphenate’ career. Like you can seriously put ‘creative director’ on your Instagram and then you're a creative director. But it's much harder to do a lot of that shit in the generation I came up in and be taken seriously in all of it. So I had a certain amount of success with some cool projects in the curatorial space and became kind of known for that. And so that’s the lane I'm in. It’s almost like a prison, because it's really hard for people to think beyond that.”
Polaroids of Aaron's work, circa 1991–1992.
Yeah, young people today are much better at multi-culturalizing—that’s not a word, but it’s an apt mashup given the context—they can mix hip-hop and metal, and play baseball and be surfer, and it’s all totally natural. As it should be. Whereas our stupid generation is more like: no, dude, stay in your fucking lane
“Yeah, exactly,” Aaron said. “You do not wear a Slayer t-shirt with a Rasta hat."
“Well, actually, I’m pretty sure Cardiel did that and it sorta worked out for him?"
Hand-painted boards by Aaron, circa 1993.
Here, at least, Aaron is getting his due because StrangeLove is the curator and Aaron is the artist. Nick has been friends with Aaron for a long time. Over a year ago, in the middle of the pandemic, Nick cold-called Aaron with the proposition: how would you like to do some guest boards for StrangeLove?
“So what’d you say, Aaron?” I asked with baited breath. “What did you fucking SAY?”
“I mean, it was obviously, yes,” Aaron said.
“So let’s talk about these graphics,” I said. “What the shit is this? There seems to be some sort of like tattoo parlor/carnival/sideshow/horror-thing going on?”
“I can't remember exactly how the whole witchy aesthetic came about, but that was what I was thinking about at that time,” Aaron said. “Also my wife and I were splitting up right when [Nick and Sean] came to me and I was thinking about all these fucked up relationships I had had with gothy, damaged women over the years—even though my wife was not that—but for some reason I was lamenting all the time I had wasted on saving tortured souls.”
Recent works of Aaron's displayed at a solo show at the Lodge LA, circa 2021.
“I’ve never dated a gothy girl,” I said, “unless you count my wife, I guess? But I’ve been with my share of damaged women. I remember one enjoyed putting cigarettes out on her forearms. Ole ashtray arms, I called her. You ever date one of those?”
“Not cigarettes on the arm,” Aaron said, “but cutters.”
“Oh, cutters. Sure,” I said. “I think the cigarettes are just a variation on the same theme.”
“I've still never really been able to wrap my head around the cutting thing, you know what I mean?” Aaron said. “And also cutting so close to the genitals, which is pretty common because it's an easy place to hide it, or whatever, but the slices are on the inner thigh, like in that most sacred of spots on a woman, you know?"
“Okay, now I'm getting scared, Aaron,” I said. We had gone to a dark place way too fast. “How does that relate to all these pretty colors?” I asked changing the subject.
“Because, well, I was just thinking a lot about my relationships with women in general, you know?” Aaron said. “Also I’ve been in therapy over the years—I'm not right now—but my therapist forbid me to date, or even entertain the idea of dating, that type of girl because we realized, together, that it was all about me saving these women. I didn’t date them because I cared about them, it was about my ego. I liked putting on the Superman Cape and swooping in to their lives and being Mighty Mouse—“Here I come to save the day!” And it was always a failure. And I realized through all this work I was doing that it was always a failure because my intentions were never to help that person in the first place, it was only to make myself feel better. It was almost like I was preying on the weak for my own ego.”
“I know someone like that,” I said. “He really likes damaged women, bad tattoos, anorexic, drug addicts—the more damaged the better.”
“I haven't been with a lot of serious drug addict girls,” Aaron said, “but, yeah, there’s definitely something about those Winona Ryder types, right? And so these boards are, in a weird way, like, almost an apology and a tribute to that type of girl because I’ve come to realize that my intentions were never pure, you know? I didn't really think this through, but I know that was what I was thinking about when I was making these boards. They’re more of a tribute to that kind of sad girl, you know what I mean? It's kind of like a thank you note.”
The aforementioned and aforepictured works actually on display at the Lodge LA, circa 2021.
Aaron’s attraction to witchy girls began in his high school days in the '80s on the streets of the San Fernando Valley. Being into the punk scene/the alternative scene back then, he explained, those were the types of girls that were around. One of the more interesting witchy girl stories Aaron told me was about his first witchy girl that he dated in 10th grade.
Dana was a cheerleader. She was the most beautiful girl in Aaron’s school. Her boyfriend was her popular male counterpart: a pro surfer (“I won’t say his name,” Aaron said). He drove a white VW Rabbit Cabriolet convertible . Dana and the pro surfer were the “IT couple” at Aaron’s high school. I think you know the type.
One night, Dana and the pro surfer, both drunk, were driving through Malibu Canyon in the white VW Rabbit Cabriolet convertible when the pro surfer suddenly lost control of the car and rolled it. With no roof to stop her, Dana was ejected from the convertible, flew through the air for a while before softly landing in a bush made of rabbit ears—I’m kidding, no, she landed on the pavement where she skidded down the road on her face for a few miles.
She lost her face in the process. Her whole face. Gone. Her face was totally torn off. The whole thing. Aaron insisted that I understand that this girl, Dana, lost ALL of her face and not a single crumb of that face remained. He said that they had to use old photos of her from the time when she had a face to rebuild a new face where her old face used to be.
Doctors did manage to rebuild something that resembled a face, but this was back in the '80s and face saving technology wasn’t what it is today. So when she finally did return to school, she sorta kinda looked a little bit like the way she did before, but mostly not. At all.
Her pro surfer boyfriend left her. The cool kids that she used to rule over abandoned her. The whole scene disowned her (bitches). But the most conspicuous thing about Dana’s transformation wasn’t so much her new Silly Putty face, but her attitude. Turns out when you lose your face, it changes you.
“She was like a full-on cheerleader girl before the accident,” Aaron said, “but when she came back to school she was wearing, like, short leather skirts and tore-up fishnets like a goth. She was still super beautiful, but like a hot goth monster.”
I noted that “Hot Goth Monster” would make a good band name.
We interrupt this Hot Goth Monster story to bring you an image of two books curated by Aaron over the years. The first, Dysfunctional, paints a raw portrait of skateboarding as it visually was in the '90s (punk was cool, too bad you missed it). The second, Beautiful Losers, is an accompaniment to the big-time traveling exhibition of the same name, spotlighting several artists who came up out of the streets to become internationally recognized art stars (several of whom participated in the original "Eye Grynd" show).
Aaron began dating the Hot Goth Monster (HGM) and cites her as the source of his unhealthy infatuation with witchy girls. HGM was damaged inside and out.
“She had a lot of mental problems too, you know, because of the trauma, and there was a lot of brain injury,” Aaron said, “but that was maybe the first girl that started all of it for me.”
The Hot Goth Monster didn’t just talk the talk, she also walked the walk. Aaron related that HGM had returned to school with a very strong interest in witchcraft. She would cast spells, for instance. They would buy witchcraft books at the mall. Then they would cast spells together. From the witchcraft books. And they would commit all kinds of teenage witchy blasphemies together.
“We would have sex out in the woods,” Aaron recalled, “with weird shit, and candles, and stuff, you know what I mean? It was real witchy.”
(One of my favorite Rick James lyrics is, “When I get there she’s got incense, wine, and candles—it’s such a freaky scene!” Doesn’t it seem like it would take more than incense, wine, and candles to freak Rick James out?)
“Did you guys try to summon the devil?” I asked, “or did any of your spells have any effect?”
“No, not that I remember,” Aaron said. “She was more into it than I was. I was kind of along for the ride. To tell you the truth, even though she was a Hot Goth Monster, I was just amazed that this girl was sitting next to me and to be that close to such a specimen of, you know, femaleness. I mean, she was just a beautiful, tragic figure, you know what I mean? And she set the mold for me. For years. Who knows, maybe she put a hex on me for life?”
Magical witchy girl boards—NOT magical witchy Girl boards, as that would be a completely different company. Hi, Megan!
Aaron’s boards are ablaze with all kinds of sacred geometry, occult symbols, and Wiccan signs. The peculiar Wiccan triangle shapes beneath the trucks, for instance, symbolize “balance” and “protection.”
“I thought under the trucks is a perfect place to put those because they're hidden, but they protect the skater,” Aaron said. “The other ones are also about balance, but more about balance of the elements—Earth, Air, Fire, Water—but they they're all about balance and protection. ‘Cause that's basically what you need when you're on a board, right?”
You’ll also note that there’s a silhouette of a mudflap girl in the graphic. Except she’s not the usual sexy, slutty mudflap girl, this one seems a little down, a little bummed out. And she’s leaning over. Almost like she’s doing something down there, like she has something sharp between her legs, something sharp near that most sacred of spots…
If you would like to find balance in your skating and feel protected while doing it, you can purchase Aaron Rose’s magical witchy girl boards right here and at fine skate shops worldwide.
Work in progress studio shot, circa 2021.
1. My piece in the show was a large photo collage of a boot. My old boot. Mark Gonzales offered to trade me one of his painted decks for it. I looked at my four-foot-wide framed print, then at Mark’s doodles on his skateboard, and went, Nahhh. And I don’t say that glibly—the fucking Gonz wanted to trade art with me. Fortunately I did say, no, though, because Aaron Rose’s mother actually bought the piece. With actual money, not a doodle board.
“I also wanted to let you know,” Aaron said at the end of our talk, “that your collage, shoe photograph, is still hanging at the top of my parents' stairs in their house.”
“No way,” I said.
“You did it really well, man, nothing has peeled. ‘Cause those prints were just glued on, you know? They never put it behind glass and it’s been like probably almost 30 years ago or something and the piece is perfect.”
I need to figure out what kind of glue I used?
2. This was a very strange phenomenon in, at least, California—I don’t know if this happened elsewhere, but throughout California in the '80s the car that all the cool kids and the rich brats drove was a white, VW Rabbit Cabriolet convertible. That was THE car. Now, it looks completely ridiculous, but even then it was an odd vehicle to garner such popularity. But that’s what the cool kids drove while wearing a sweater wrapped around their neck and their Polo shirt collar popped.
Obviously I don’t see Cabriolets on the road much anymore, but when I do I am always filled with a vague sensation of rage—usually before I’m even conscious that I am in the presence of a white convertible Cabriolet.