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Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Street art

By Alisa Mokler Harper

James Haunt at work on the dinosaur in this year's X Games Street course.

You may have heard that the X Games LA Street Course will resemble a schoolyard, straight down to the flagpole and locker bay. But have you heard about the Haunted Dinosaur?

Red Bull commissioned Los Angeles artist James Haunt to create skateable, rideable art on this year's X Games Street Course. Haunt's focus is on the "Dinosaur," a feature designed by California Ramp Works' Dug Ketterman. The Dinosaur is a sort of curvy ledge/hubba feature that follows one of the staircases on the course, culminating in a four-and-a-half-foot drop to flat off the head of the beast. "I wasn't trying to invent something new, just trying to bring something fun -- an art piece -- to the course," says Ketterman.

Haunt was born and raised in east Los Angeles. Always into street art and graffiti, Haunt's style is gritty California. With multiple commissions by companies like Red Bull and Grenade, Haunt's work has been seen at the Grenade Games, "The Art of Flight" premiere, on T-shirts available at Pac Sun and at live art performances throughout the Southern California area and beyond.

Fresh off his first look at the X Games Street course, we caught up with Haunt for some insight into his plans for the art that the world's best skateboard and BMX athletes will be throwing down on this week.

How did your art get so entwined in the action sports culture?
Basically, growing up in the city it was an everyday thing to skate everywhere I went. It was a normal part of my life. Doing art and graffiti, I naturally got into skating. I also just got into snowboarding and I love it. Always being around skateboarding people got excited about my art and I was sucked into action sports.

California street artist James Haunt.

What do you think about designing a piece for the X Games Street course? What does it mean to you to have an international platform to represent the L.A. art scene?
Honestly, it's pretty surreal. It's probably one of the more spotlighted things I've ever done. I'm beside myself -- I can't even believe it; I feel privileged to have that exposure.

What's the inspiration behind the art that you'll show at X Games?
For the past year I've been drawing my version of the California dream girl. I make 'em with sunglasses with different colored lenses -- it's the bright California lifestyle. Basically it's imagery that's inspired by my California experience -- lips, eyes, palm trees and UFOs. The UFOs are kind of random but it's just what excites me and drives me on the every day.

Was becoming a professional artist something you dreamed about as a kid or did it just sort of happen?
I've always been extremely consumed in art and design, ever since I was a little kid. I painted a lot and then little by little people started noticing and I started doing a lot of stuff for the apparel industry. I became a freelance artist without even noticing it was happening. It's cool because now I can take this to the next level and really hit it heavy.

I heard you're rooting for Real Street competitor Manny Santiago. Are you guys friends?
Yeah, that's my boy -- we just had lunch the other day. He's a really good dude; since we met, good times have not stopped. I really appreciate and respect his work ethic; he puts himself out there and that's inspirational to me -- it encourages me to really be about what I do.

[Tune in to X Games LA's BMX Street Finals on Friday, June 29 at at 6 p.m. PT and Skateboard Street Finals on Sunday, July 1 from 3 to 5 p.m PT. Find the full tune-in schedule here.]