Chris Grosso described deVita's work as a "compulsion." Grosso is the producer of Vice'sTattoo Age, the wonderfully produced documentary series profiling artists in a way that honors the craft. One such profile was a five-part series on deVita (the first of which is embedded below). Here are our posts on all episodes: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.
Thom deVita began tattooing on NYC's Lower East Side in 1961, over 50 years ago, just as the city instituted its ban on the art form - a ban that was lifted in 1997. His approach to tattooing, even back then, was as a fine artist. The NY Times explains:
"He is one of the founders of modern tattooing," said Mr. Grosso, who befriended Mr. DeVita two years ago while filming a documentary about him. "It's not what you see on reality television, but something that only he and seven other people in the 1960s started, from purely a love for the art form. He wasn't from a sailor or biker background, where
tattooing comes with the territory. They appreciated the great Japanese masters, the people from Samoa. Thom was at the forefront of that." [...] His own entree into the art world was improvised, when a potential girlfriend asked him what he did. "I had to be something, so I told her I was an artist," he said. "So I became an artist. I had to show her I was an artist, so I started doing
As the article further notes, Grosso has set up a website to sell deVita's work. The work has a certain power to it, as if each piece carries with it decades of tattoo tradition. Grosso brings the proceeds from the sales to Newburgh in Upstate NY, where deVita has lived since leaving NYC in the nineties.
At a time where the media focuses its lens on Justin Bieber's tattoos and the countless reality shows, it's heartening to see an artist, who has given so much to tattooing, get the recognition he deserves.