Happy Birthday, Paul Booth!
Today is birthday (the 666th?) of the inimitable Paul Booth. For those new to the art, Paul has been tattooing his own brand of dark imagery, for almost 25 years, on faithful minions seeking beauty through demons, satanic sirens and an alien fetus or two.
He was crowned the "The new king of rock tattoos" by Rolling Stone Magazine in 2002 for his extensive work on metal bands including Slayer, Pantera, Slipknot, and Lamb of god. He's also the only tattoo artist to be accepted into the prestigious The National Arts Club. In fact, he has been a driving force behind fostering fine art endeavors among tattooists, particularly with the creation of "ArtFusion Experiment," which he co-founded with Filip and Titine Leu, to champion collaborative painting and drawing among tattoo artists worldwide.
Ten days ago, his Last Rites Tattoo Theater in NYC celebrated its 5-year anniversary with an art show featuring an exceptional roster of artists, including many tattooers. The show runs through May 18th. You can also view many of the works here.
In 2010, I interviewed Paul for Black & Grey Tattoo, in which his tattoo and fine art work are featured. Here's a taste of our Q&A:
You've been interviewed so many times by so many different people. Is there one overriding message that you really want to get across-about you personally-in any interview?
That's a big one to start with.
I'm sorry there's no foreplay here.
Foreplay is important... especially for women... or so I've read. [laughs]
Would you rather I begin with the usual, "How did you get your start in tattooing?"
Well, foreplay was involved there.
We can get back to that first question or hit it at the outset.
For me, it's always the misconceptions to address. I almost feel like a walking contradiction because there's a strong part of me that keeps a real I don't give a fuck attitude, I don't care what people think or say. But there's another side of me that gets frustrated with a human being's ability to believe without any validation. I'm amazed at the number of people in the world who follow rumor without any verification. They are perfectly fine with "Well, Joe Shmo told me that, so it's true."
What I have heard a lot of over the years is how negative my work is. People don't seem to understand that dark does not necessarily mean evil, baby eating, Satanism. [I always use "baby eating" because I keep hearing that one ever since I said it jokingly in an interview years ago!] And here's where the contradiction comes in: As I have gotten older, I'm trying to debunk misconceptions, but I kinda like having the misconceptions.
The general public tends to think that the people who come to me for work are a bunch of deviant, social misfits looking for shock value. But for my clients, underneath all the initial surface shock or negative tones, ultimately there's a positive. Not everyone is here looking for some kind of therapy. There are some like myself who just want to freak out the old ladies in the grocery store. [And when you're able to freak out old ladies in the grocery store, you realize how empowering it is... as silly as that analogy may sound!] But a lot of people leave here feeling empowered for many reasons and I don't know how that could be negative in the end.
I've also heard people say that Paul Booth clients are a bunch of dark, self-harmers. However, if you're making them more beautiful and feel good about themselves, that's not self-harm.
A lot of my clientele, I relate to them on levels that are surprisingly deep. It's because we come from backgrounds where there's a greater degree of feeling like outcasts I suspect.
When I was in high school I was a punk rocker, the only punk rocker in school in suburban New Jersey--only Mohawk in the whole place. I'm walking around with blue and red hair, angry (yeah, like that's changed) and my appearance became my filter. If you had the depth of character to get past my appearance and find out who I am, then you're worth my time. I have no time for two-dimensional people. Today, my work reflects that as well. I don't think my work is usually appreciated by two-dimensional people... and that's fine by me!
For more on Paul, follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.