Hell City Redux 2010
The Hell City Tattoo Convention, for me, began the minute I boarded my flight to Columbus and ran into Dan Henk (shown below) and Frankie Scorpion, the notorious founder of The Gypsy Queens. Each of us sat separately on the plane and so each of us had to answer the same incessant tattoo questions from our seat mates--questions we later shared and mocked once we landed and piled into the truck of Myke Chambers who graciously picked us up from the airport and drove to the Hyatt Regency Convention Center. There, our (interrogated) tattoo minority became a monstrous majority of international artists, collectors & media. A caravan of art gypsies there to tattoo, shmooze, paint & party. For all my whining on the gentrification of tattooing, these events make me feel that we're still a neighborly hood. I like it.
Just as I did for the NYC Tattoo Convention, I'll break down my personal highlights here. But for a detailed account on the Hell City show, read my upcoming review for Bound By Ink Magazine (will let ya know when it's out).
Oh, and see my usual crappy convention photos here.
* I'll just come out and say it right away that this is one of the the most organized, artist-friendly conventions I've ever been to. Tattooists aren't corralled into tiny booths, squished on top of one another like in a chicken farm; they have the room they need to lay clients out for tattooing, a necessity considering so many artists were working on big pieces like backs, thighs and an occasional booty. Shows run by tattooists like Durb Morrison tend to make that extra effort to accommodate their fellow artists. And happy artists can translate into happy tattoos (unless they got too happy at the lobby bar the night before).
* The use of technology--including the competition RSS feeds, Google calendar updates and judging software--kept things running super-smoothly. In fact, the competition judging system is so incredibly cool that I'm gonna do a separate entry on it later for my fellow geek squad.
* Like the NYC tattoo show, I met some truly beautiful characters. One whom I'll never forget is Dutch whose tattooed eyelids grace the top of this post. Dutch, an "Appalachian native," held court at his Dutch's Body Suit Supplies booth, next to that of his tattooist Scot Winskye of La Grange, KY. Dutch said that since he started getting tattooed by Scot, he hasn't had anyone else put their art on him. In addition to large beautiful pieces on his torso and legs--which you can see on Flickr--Scot has tattooed Dutch's head, ears and those pennies on his eyes. It was a treat meeting them both. In fact, I met a bunch of Scot's other clients at the show including this body builder whose claim to convention fame was his ability to bench of 550 pounds. People were very nice to him.
* Another highlight was stealing Joe Capobianco away for an hour to interview him for an upcoming feature in Inked Magazine--time I greatly appreciated as Joe was booked up tattooing all weekend as well as promoting his latest Kid Robot toy, The Bride. [The hottest part of that promo was the live version (see right).] Joe said that Hell City is one of the last US conventions he'll be doing, so start booking those cheesecake tattoo appointments at his Hope Gallery studio in New Haven, CT.
* The Bride wasn't the only release this weekend. Guy Aitchison and Michele Wortman debuted two of their latest projects: first, the Innerstate DVD & book release was held Friday with a screening of the film, which documents the art jam held at the previous Hell City show (in which 40 tattooists created original works in an art performance). See a trailer here. Chris Stauber also wrote about it in her own Hell City Redux last year.
On Saturday, Guy & Michelle threw a party for the release of their Proton Press & Music label, (more on that here). Musicians, including the awesome Peter Stauber (aka Sursum) performed on stage, while in the back of the room, tattooists painted collaboratively on biomech and organic pieces. In the middle of it all, we grooved in that sensory sandwich. Yummm.
* The Pint Size Paintings release was also a tasty treat. There was some serious art on these tiny canvases--some surreal and some snarky. Looking forward to seeing the paintings again when it comes to NYC's Sacred Gallery in July.
* Did I mention the freakin awesome tattoo work being done at the convention? I love Kristel Oreto's Chanel-ized My Little Pony along with this Louis Vuitton version here.
* Finally, it all comes back to hanging out with friends and getting to know people whose work I've admired. I think I said, "I know that tattoo" instead of "I know that girl" too many times. Remedied that fast.
One of my favorite personal moments was watching the Steve Prue shoot for Urban Ink and Rebel Ink magazines--particularly pairing Shorty from the Lifestyle tattoo crew with 7-foot-tall Adam of BodyMod.org for this photo.
[By hanging out with Adam, I also got to witness how often stupid comments are made about his height every 45 seconds. I won't complain about people resting their drinks on my head again.]
I only wish Steve could've photographed the high school prom that took place Friday night on the floor below, with all the tulle wedding cake dresses and big pageant hair. Awesome!
Most of the artists and collectors I spoke with never went to their own proms, many saying that they felt like outsiders when they were young. So in a way, Hell City was our own freak gala. And it was a hot time.