Juliet Schreckinger can trace the single-most influential experience of her young life back to one place.
It was two years ago, and she was standing inside Grain Surfboards in Amagansett, looking down at the wooden board she had just made — a true fusion of artistry and the surf, her two greatest passions and avenues of self-expression.
“It was the best experience of my life. I can honestly say it was the best, best part of my summer ever,” the 19-year-old said. “It was so cool to see how something I use all the time is actually made. To actually build my own board and see how much hard work goes into a handmade surfboard, it was just, all around, a really, really important experience for me.
“I’ll never forget that. It was definitely something I will treasure.”
For the emerging artist, it is only appropriate for Stick + Stone, which shares a space with Grain, to host her first-ever art exhibition, “Art is Good For You,” a group show with fellow surfers and creatives Xavier McCormack and August Whitney, on view through Sunday, August 18.
“With this exhibition, ‘Art is Good for You,’ we acknowledge the meditative and cathartic process of making art, as a means to processing one’s place in this world,” Stick + Stone curator and co-owner Aynsley Schopfer said in a statement, “and celebrate three young artists that are weaving this creative process into their lives and their communities.”
A lifelong lacrosse player, McCormack came into art by accident. He tore his ACL while playing varsity lacrosse during his junior year at Saint Andrew’s High School in Boca Raton, Florida, and it was out of his injury that he discovered his creative side, as well as surfing.
For the 19-year-old East Hampton native, both activities transport him away from his day-to-day reality and ground him in the present — particularly surfing, he said.
“You know the ways of the water and it helps you learn more about it,” he said during a lifeguarding shift in East Hampton, looking out at the rough ocean. “It’s a really cool experience to get into when you have an intimate relationship with the wave and the water, not to sound cheesy or anything. It’s a lot of fun and also takes my mind off of reality and just being in the moment.”
Although Whitney is based in California, the 26-year-old artist has visited his grandmother on the East End nearly every summer since he was born, he said, a traveler since he can first remember.
“When I was five, my parents took my sister and I on a six-month trip around the world, where I started a travel journal that I write and draw pictures in,” Whitney said. “Most of my early memories of drawing took place in foreign places, where I liked to sketch the animals or scenes of places we went. I would draw sand crabs on the beach, dolphins we spotted from a boat, or sheep we would pass on the roads of New Zealand. It was a great way for me to record the experiences I was having during the trip.”
Most of his inspiration is derived from the natural beauty of landscapes, the human form or the simplicity of floral still life, he said. Surfing is a welcome distraction, and his primary tool to clear his state of mind and allow him to better concentrate on painting, he said.
“I think that being alive can be an overwhelmingly complex experience at times, so for me, there is great value in bringing my focus down to just painting something I find simple and beautiful,” he explained. “I try to remove myself from relating to current place or time, in order to give full attention to the timeless beauty of my subject.”
Schreckinger looks to the sea for her inspiration. It’s a dominant thread throughout her work currently on view at Stick + Stone — including “Rise Above,” which depicts a humpback whale floating above a sea of garbage, which she created by using a stippling technique in pen and ink.
“I’ve been seeing a lot of sad stories about how the pollution is affecting the oceans, and to me, I wanted to create a piece not emphasizing the negativity around the pollution, but emphasizing the beauty of the actual animals that are affected by this, such as a humpback whale,” she said. “I tried to create a piece that puts the emphasis on why it’s so important we keep these oceans the way they are and nature the way it is, because in reality, they are the ones that are really affected by it.”
Ever since she could hold a pencil, Schreckinger was drawing and creating, enthusiastically encouraged by her grandfather, who was an artist. There was never any question that she would continue down this path, she said.
“It’s my true passion and calling,” she said. “As I grew older, I realized during hard times or even just when I was looking for something to do for the day, art was never a chore, it was never work to me. It was just something I would wake up at seven in the morning wanting to do, and my parents would be yelling at me to go to sleep at 3 a.m. and to stop for the night.
“It almost, like, just comes out of me,” she continued. “I need to get it out. It’s not even work to me. And I’m so lucky that I’m able to do it because I really, really love creating.”
“Art is Good for You,” featuring work by Juliet Schreckinger, August Whitney and Xavier McCormack, is on view through Sunday, August 18, at Stick + Stone, located at Grain Surfboards Retail + Gallery, 11 Indian Wells Highway in Amagansett. For more information, call (631) 267-9283 or visit grainsurfboards.com.