Long Beach State Alum Hosts Interactive Tiki Art Show

By Samantha Coulter, Contributor

This art isn’t meant to make you feel a certain way, it is meant to take you far away, to a place where anything can happen. This is a place of pure fantasy, an island of fun that resides in four people’s heads. This is the Battle for the Island of the Gargantuas.

On Oct. 13, the second part of a three-part art exhibition was held at MADE by Millworks on Pine Avenue. Long Beach State alum Tom ‘BigToe’ Laura and three world-renowned tiki artists—Doug Horne, Atomkitty and Ken Ruzic—hosted guests for questions.

Even though the paintings were revealed and open to the public at a previous show, this night, the public had the chance to hear the artists talk about how they made each piece.

The four artists had a huge display of art that covered Battle for the Island of the Gargantuas’ themes. The themes were Yacht Rock, Land of the Dead, Poly-Pop Surrealism, Heart of Darkness, Poly Pulp, Velvet, Sid and Marty Krofft. The eighth, Realm of the Sensual, is often called lowbrow or pop culture surrealism. Artists chose their favorite work to showcase under each theme.


To choose themes for these events, the artists claim they sit in a room and yell at each other and hash it out before putting the themes into a hat to choose from later.

As we entered the exhibit, BigToe, Ken Ruzic and Atomikitty met us to start the tour. They were wrapping up a special podcast discussing different pieces they made and the future of the art scene. Walking farther into the exhibit, the art was so immense that it was easy to get lost looking at the pictures.

“As artists, we didn’t want to get caught up in ruts and this was a way to challenge each other with different themes,” BigToe said.  

“We are all pulling from the same creative pool, it is sometimes nice to step out of your comfort zone and really conceptualize something that isn’t tiki or Polynesian Pop,” Atomikitty said.

Tiki art was created in the United States during prohibition in the 1930s by Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt aka Donn Beach. Tiki art lovers, or tikiphiles, are attracted to its vintage lifestyle and portrayal of escapism, an interpretation of Beach’s infatuation with the island lifestyle and the South Pacific.

Battle for the Island of the Gargantuas is the Gargantuas Art Collective’s latest endeavor, which was a coming together of four world-renowned artists local to Southern California. Last year they made a showcase in Hawaii, this year in Long Beach.

If you’re looking to find out more about where in the world they will be next or to learn more about it, follow BigToe on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. To view the artwork displayed at Battle for the Island of the Gargantuas, visit MADE by Millworks.