Celebrate 30 Years of the Screaming Hand!
BY Garrick Ramirez
The blue Screaming Hand, that indelible icon of skateboarding culture, celebrated its 30th birthday with creation of an eye-popping exhibition at the Santa Cruz Museum of History & Art (MAH). Created in 1985 by Santa Cruz graphics artist Jim Phillips, the howling appendage—which has been emblazoned on t-shirts, skateboards, and stickers all over the world—is honored with a fitting tribute to its influential legacy.
Last year, NHS, the local skateboard company for which the logo was
originally created, assembled over 200 prominent, international artists
to reimagine the Screaming Hand in a variety of mediums. Paintings,
illustrations, and sculptures comprise the fun exhibit that recently
returned to Santa Cruz after touring more than 25 cities around the
The Screaming Hand show includes Phillips’ original works along that
of his son, Jimbo Phillips, and even his 14-year-old grandson. But the
most enjoyable aspect of the show might be the creative, new
reinterpretations of the Hand produced by contemporary artists such as
Jeff Meadows, Tosh Woods, and graffiti artist Bigfoot One. Even if
you’re not familiar with the artists’ names, you’re likely to recognize a
few of their signature styles applied to the world-famous graphic. We
love the functioning lightbox piece that visualizes an x-ray version of
the Hand, complete with a wide-open toothy mouth.
There’s also an adult-size costume version that would transform a willing participant into an grotesque, oversized Muppet.
Even Cookie Monster gets in on the action with an illustration of his furry, mouth-emblazoned palm grasping for a cookie.
Jim Phillips, and the images he created, are legendary in the
skateboarding community. A graduate of Santa Cruz High School, Phillips
began publishing his artwork in local surf magazines in the 1960s.
Throughout the 70s and 80s, Phillips served as art director for Santa
Cruz Skateboards where he created thousands of familiar images, the most
famous of which became the blue Screaming Hand.
“I’m often asked where I got the idea for the Screaming Hand,”
Phillips says explaining its origin. “As I sat at my drawing table and
clenched my left hand, I penciled a sketch, thinking about how powerful
the hand is, how artists have used it in gestures to express emotion.
Then I thought about it being even more expressive if it had a mouth
right on the palm, and how much more if it was screaming!”
Skateboard and surf graphics are fleeting, and it’s rare for an image
such as the Hand to remain commercially relevant for so many years. Yet
thirty-one years later, the Screaming Hand has proven timeless. Think
of it as “The Scream,” Edvard Munch’s famous expressionist painting, for
the skateboarding community.
The Screaming Hand exhibit is currently on display and runs through
March 26, 2017. Note that the show contains occasional cartoonish gore
and adult subject matter. Parents may find some images inappropriate for
If you’re looking for other MAH-related fun,
be sure to check out the upcoming POWER HOUR of fun event featuring a
non-stop hour of minute-long, back-to-back, awesomely fun experiences.
All Photos by Garrick Ramirez