A Brush with Art

The man behind the Cardiff Kook

Everyone in the free world seems to know of “The Cardiff Kook,” and can possibly list several of its incarnations. Since its unveiling in 2007, the statue has become an interactive icon of our coastal culture. In spite of its extensive publicity, however, the artist behind the Kook has remained relatively obscure.

“Aerial” by Matthew Antichevich (25” h x 21” w) shows signature wave typically found in Antichevich’s surfing sculptures. This piece is held in the private collection of Don Hansen, owner of Hansen’s Surf Shop. Photo by Jim Waters.
Matthew Antichevich, soft-spoken creator of the bronze figure officially named “Magic Carpet Ride” has a fascinating personal history independent of his celebrated Cardiff sculpture.

At the age of six, Matthew lived with his family in Encinitas. Scrambling over brush-covered hills to Moonlight Beach with his young pals, he saw the ocean for the very first time. Since that moment he’s held a heartfelt affinity for Encinitas and its beaches. Although his family moved inland the following year, as a pre-teen Matthew learned to surf in Cardiff, where today he continues surfing in relative anonymity.

Artistically gifted from early childhood, Antichevich was gently encouraged by his Croatian father to pursue his talents. At age 18 Matthew was introduced to his father’s European homeland and exposed to the artistic wonders of Italy. He was captivated by the beauty of classical Italian painting and sculpture and vowed to return to Italy to study art some day.

Antichevich began his higher education at the College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, followed by the University of Morelia, in his mother’s homeland of Michuacan, Mexico. His dream of studying art in Italy never faded, however, and in 1974 he became a student at the Florence Academy of Art. A year of immersion in a cultural environment filled with artistic treasures of the Italian Renaissance had an indelible impact on the young artist. The classical influence acquired during this period remains evident in his work to this day.

Antichevich returned to California to finish his BFA degree at UC Santa Barbara. To further hone his sculpting skills, he later enrolled in Hemet’s Mt. San Jacinto College, which offered a foundry established by renowned sculptor Max DeMoss.

“Next thing I knew, I was hooked.” Antichevich says of working with DeMoss. “He taught me everything there was to know about bronze casting and I ended up being his assistant. I owe a lot to him.” After teaching ceramics at the college for several years, Antichevich stepped into the position vacated upon DeMoss’ retirement, where he continues teaching the art of sculpting today. In DeMoss’ private foundry Antichevich worked for a decade alongside his mentor on full-scale statuary for the LA Cathedral, Rancho Santa Fe‘s Church of the Nativity, and numerous other public and private commissions across America. In 2006 Antichevich completed his own “Magic Carpet Ride” in the private DeMoss foundry.

The casting of bronze sculpture is almost always done by foundry workers, not the actual artist; but due to his extensive experience as both, Antichevich is an exception. He says with characteristic humility, “I am the artist and the foundry worker. I do all of it myself.”

Antichevich, who is also an accomplished painter and ceramicist, has been sculpting surfers in bronze since 1987 and has shown his work with 101 Artist Colony and Trios Gallery. Although his work is extraordinary, he holds the perfection of Italian masters as a standard by which to weigh its merit. He says, “I still don’t think it’s reached that quality,” but he continues to strive towards that formidable level of accomplishment.

Movement is a major element in Antichevich’s work and, according to his recently appointed agent Susan Hays, “It was because of the movement in his art that he was chosen above the others for the Cardiff commission.” Each of his previous surfing sculptures had a large wave incorporated into its design, which emphasized the movement of the piece. The life-long surfer says, “The water is as important, if not more so, than the figure.” Working within a limited budget, he still rose to the challenge when forced to eliminate his signature wave from the commissioned work.

When asked how the strong community reaction to the Cardiff sculpture has affected him, Antichevich responded, “It made me humble and a better artist. I probably would have been full of myself if it was very successful. It made me a better person.”

Considering the positive impact his notorious creation has had on the local culture, Antichevich states with his glass-half-full attitude, “I think I’m real lucky. It’s been like a dream come true.”

I’m hoping that the future holds a tsunami of well-deserved success for this unassuming but praiseworthy artist. He’s earned it.

Selected works by Antichevich will be featured at a reception in Cardiff on Aug. 25. For information about the event, contact Susan Hays at susan.artconsultant@gmail.com.