With the news of Neil Armstrong's passing this weekend, I thought about giant leaps for mankind and how space and curiosity of what lies beyond earth have not only inspired science lovers but artists of all disciplines, including tattooing. Just a Google image search on "space tattoos" will show how widely popular they are. I also put a call out on Twitter and a number of great tattoo artists sent me photos of starscapes, spacecrafts and astronauts.
One artist whom many associate with cosmic tributes -- as well as bio-organic and trippy dystopias -- is Brooklyn's own Jon Clue. Tattooing since 1993, he became particularly known early in his career for his "new school" graffiti-influenced color bombs. That vivid color saturation is found in his work today, but with less literal and more surreal subject matter. You can see influences of Guy Aitchison, with whom he's worked closely, as well as Aaron Cain and Paul Booth, among others. Prick magazine has a good Q&A with him, although now a bit out of date as Jon is back tattooing in New York.
Check Jon's work on his site and that of East Side Ink.
Tattoo in progress.
Brookyln's Galaxy of Tar - who have created a powerful amalgam of 70s-era Santana psychedelia with the prog-rock/metal components of contemporary acts Tool and Mars Volta - recently released a pair of tracks for free download at Lapdance Academy. I was fortunate enough to get a few minutes to sit down with songwriter/drummer Elias Diaz and singer Naima Mora (yes, the winner of America's Next Top Model - Cycle 4) to talk tattoos...
Please describe to our readers your tattoos and let us know what artists/shops did the work.
ELIAS DIAZ: Well, i have one of toxic waste that takes me back to a weird period of my life and three chinese symbols that sum up the meaning of existence. A tattoo of a totem pole that's an incarnation of black magic and dark masks. That one was done by an artist who's first name only i can remember as Patrick. I remember the tattoo shop was somewhere on MacDougal street. I've been looking for him here in NY to no avail.
We'll have to put Patrick's face on a milk carton, I guess. What's the ethongraphic origin of this imagery - the totem pole, black magic and dark masks?
ELIAS: The masks are definitely Latin. In DR [Dominican Republic] - where I'm from - the people celebrate magic goblins in the carnival festivals every year for the entire month of february. My tattoo has a lot of influence from that, and of course a collaborative creative effort of the artist.
NAIMA MORA: My first tattoo was a little star on my ankle, that was randomly done one night out drinking with friends. We all decided to get a tattoo just for the experience. Some place in the the East Village in NYC. I have four other pieces, another star on my head, because I had a big tendency for randomly shaving it at the time. That was done at MacDougal Tattoo by an artist I can't remember, either... I don't think the shop is there any more [ed note: MacDougal Tattoo closed in 2007 and most of their artists moved to a new location at East Side Ink]. I thought it would be "gangster" to get one of "Detroit" on my forearm done by some crazy brazilian guy in the East Village and followed that with another tattoo of the name of my best friend... And i also have a magical spell on my forearm of Mayan hieroglyphics done by Becca Roach.
Where is the star on your head?
NAIMA: The tattoo on my head is above my left ear. Its pretty small. I wish i had gotten something bigger now that i think about it... But if were to do that I would mean I'd have to shave it all off again!
Can you describe the spell? Also, why did you choose Mayan glyphs?
NAIMA: Well I am Mexican and my family is of the Purepecha Indians in Michoacan which derive from the Maya. They still speak Nahuatl in Mexico, which is the same language as the Maya spoke centuries ago. The spell reads the secret words spoken by the Mayan god Quetzalcuatl that a shaman gave to me one trip visiting home and that I can not disclose.
At what point in your life did you both decide to start modifying your body and why?
ELIAS: The age of 14 was my first experience of being ripped open by a needle. I don't why.
That's pretty young - did you have a good fake ID or did you and your pals build a machine or hand-poke?
ELIAS: At that time in Brooklyn, you didn't need an ID out on Avenue U. The Chinese characters were my first someplace on Avenue U.
NAIMA: I was 19, I think, and it was more of a spontaneous thing to try something new. I always thought tattoos were really cool, but I wanted to get a small one first to understand the feeling, the pain and the symbolism of marking my body.
Does your ink have a "deeper meaning" or do you believe in adornment for beauty's sake?
ELIAS: It marks a timeline for me of what i've gone through. The Chinese characters are my own personal version of a latin Bar Mitzvah - my claiming of rights to manhood. My second piece - [the] toxic waste [symbol] - represents a weird transition in my life where I was really disgusted by humanity. And the totem pole reminds of the beauty in cultural history that people share in common versus the negativity that we can be so prone to.
NAIMA: All my ink i got done for different reasons and they remind me of the reasons i got them for. Detroit, murder capitol... A star on my head at the suggestion of a dear friend of mine, my best friend... And magical spells to remind me where i am from. But with that said, I also think tattoos are very beautiful and I love the way script looks.
Naima, how has getting tattooed affected your modeling career, if at all? Do you find it easier to be accepted as a "tattooed rocker" rather than a "tattooed model?"
NAIMA: Thats a good question. As far as a modeling, i've never really cared whether it affected the career or not... I always knew that I wanted to do more than just model, so i was never reluctant to getting ink or worry about how it would affect my job as a model. But I think in the modeling world, I was always that "edgy girl" as the fashionistas liked to call me. So I don't think it affected it that much.
I spent a short stint in Miami where clients hated my tattoos. My agent encouraged me to cover them with make-up, so i left Miami! But I definitely think that being a rocker a person is accepted more for who they are.
Do you both have plans to get more tattoos? If so, what are you looking to get and what artists would you like to be tattooed by?
ELIAS: I'm definitely considering more work. Don't know what i want yet... but it all depends on if I can find Patrick. That's the only man that can touch my body that way.
That sounds dirty, bro...
NAIMA: I really want another tattoo! Soon! But i don't know what i want to get tattooed yet either. I should start looking for an artist soon though.
How do you look for an artist? Is it by artistic style, personal recommendation, or do you just go to the nearest place when you have some free time and money?
NAIMA: Most of my tattoos have been walk ins, thats why i don't remember the artists very well by name. But i've been asking around for suggestions from friends. Ultimately, this time i think i'll really research the work an artist has done, check out their portfolio and get some really great work done! I think thats a mature decision and part of growing up.
The two-song release with PDF digibooklet - "Volatile Glass" - is available for free download at lapdanceacademy.com/galaxy. Download your copy today!
Top photo by Cathrine Westergaard.
[Ed. Note: We have located the elusive Patrick - he is the one and only Patrick Conlon who works aside my old friend Sweety at East Side Ink here in New York City]
I got a double dose of news for ya, from post-mortem tattoos to literary ink to celebs tattooing, so no foreplay today, let's get to it...
First, my fave headline: "Man freed thanks to penis lizard tattoo." Ok, maybe a little foreplay. [Thanks, Scott!]
The biggest news item was Chris Brown putting down his fists and picking up a tattoo machine. The singer was at East Side Ink last week, home to tattooer of his ex Rihanna, Bang Bang -- a man who consensually makes her bleed. After getting a forearm tattoo earlier in the week, Brown returned to East Side to put his own tattoo (see above) on Bang Bang.
You may remember that we blogged about Bang Bang getting in trouble for letting Rihanna tattoo him and others in the shop last month as only licensed artists can tattoo in New York, but I guess the press and subsequent biz from the celeb tattoos will pay for the fines he may face. Problem is that someone, Bang Bang or East Side's owner, could also lose their license as well. Worth it?
While the Chris Brown story made me roll my eyes a bit, this story of a post-mortem tattoo brought tears to them:
Patrick Conley, a 29-year-old husband and father who was dying of leukemia had one last wish: to get a tattoo. Upon his death, he reiterated this wish to his hospice nurse. He had the design all ready to go. But never made it. The nurse wanted to see his final desire fulfilled so she told another hospice nurse, the mother of tattoo artist Matt Sawdon. Sawdon, of Sunken Ship Tattoo in Everett, WA, agreed to do his first post-mortem tattoo after Conley's family agreed. The article details what Sawdon experienced in doing this tattoo, but it was the final part of the article below that broke my heart:
In the tumult of Conley's last few hours, his wife found one last gift.
I needed a laugh after that story, and this one did the trick: 22 Fan Tattoos of Comedians, including Bill Cosby as a puddin pop.
More tattoo tributes...
An embroidery design tattooed to look like grandma's needle work.
And another? Did this Italian actress really get a Berlusconi tattoo?
If your own tributes on skin are of the bookish kind, hit up LA Times bloggers who are seeking literary tattoos for a book project.
It's not the first to honor text tattoos. Ina Saltz put together a great collection in her 2006 book Body Type: Intimate Message Etched in Flesh but this new project goes beyond funky fonts to all skin lit from "a line from an e.e. cummings poem (above), an image from a picture book or maybe even a drawing of an author we love." Read more here to contribute to the project.
Cool article in SF Gate on how tattoos are replicated on wax statues of celebs at Madame Tussauds. Here's how they do it: "...If a celebrity has a tattoo, it will be photographed and duplicated -- or the appropriate body part will be sent to the tattoo artist so it can be done by the original."
For more cool stories, it's quick and dirty link time:
The Michael Jackson tribute tattoos dominated the headlines while Rihanna created some buzz of her own by tattooing three people at East Side Ink in Manhattan, home to her favorite artist Bang Bang. Tattooists at the shop got Ri's signature umbrella with the letter 'R' underneath it. But the biggest treat was for the paparazzi: see more photos on INFDaily.
Alas, the sweet press for the studio has backfired because now the NYPD and the NYC Health Department are looking into Rihanna tattooing without a license -- a misdemeanor offense that could mean fines and loss of license for East Side's owner. It's not confirmed, however, whether the city has opened an investigation into the unlicensed tattooing.
In more illegal ink news, this dude was jailed for tattooing minors but it should've been for his "online tattooing school." Note to self: ask my next tattooist to see license and diploma from Bob's Tattoo School.
The problem with unlicensed tattooing is the risk of severe infection, never mind shitty umbrella art.
Perfect example: this tattoo gone wrong law suit [via NSFW Modblog] where three friends walked into a Morgan Hill, California shop and walked out with massive staph infections. One posted this puss-filled tattoo (below) on HelpMeSue.com, also noting they researched the studio and found it was not yet licensed by the health department. It would have been better, of course, if such research was done prior to dirty tattooing. The image is a reminder to do our homework on the artist and shop opening our skin.
Infection may be common at unlicensed shops but I wouldn't go as far as ex-MTV veejay Jancee Dunn's fear of "rampant hepatitis" -- the argument she gave her over-60 mom who decided to get tattooed. But the super cool mom ignored such drama and gave the best reason for wanting a tattoo -- simply because she liked it:
"I've passed midlife. Your generation thinks every action has to be fueled by some major psychological motive. You know what? I just want some art on my body. And I like ravens."They went to Shotsie's Tattoo in Wayne, NJ, a long time tattoo staple in NJ (fully licensed of course), and the Ink Shrink worked a raven on her wrist, which she loved. The rockin grandma's next plan is to head to Burning Man, and while her daughter remains horrified, I'm inspired. Jancee's book Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo?: And Other Questions I Wish I Never Had to Ask is now out.
Ok, now to cleanse that icky tattoo image from ya head, behold the Beckhams:
I just licked my screen. Their Armani ad is hot. Less so, The Beckhams: 10 years of tattoos, Tom Cruise and malnutrition.
Further celeb hotness, Mena Suvari shows off her '13' tattoo.
But I gotta ask, What would prompt someone to get a Lady Gaga tattoo?
In more important news ...
Quebec Superior Court judge has ruled that a dress code for day care workers forcing employees to cover-up tattoos was in violation of their rights.Supported by the daycare worker union in Quebec, Nadine Bélisle can now show off the snake tattoo on her shoulder blade. The union president said "We agree that if a tattoo is sexist, racist or violent it should be camouflaged. But I don't see how children are going to be traumatized by a flower on someone's ankle." The lawyer for the daycare argued the board put the general ban in place so they did not have to make the decision of what tattoos are deemed suitable. The judge didn't dig that argument and found that the ban "rests on prejudices." The Globe and Mail further quotes the Judge Jean Bouchard:
Another reason to love Canada:
Eric has been getting tattooed for over 20 years but saved room on his upper arm to mark the birth of his beautiful daughter Hayden (both shown right). And as Hayden was born on a full moon, he added one behind her name and above it a rose with a pink diamond in it. Ok everyone, time for a group "aaawww."
Another note to self: add Eric to our growing N+S "objectified tattooed men."
Not to be objectified: This dude with the Stooges backpiece and facial ink!
Perhaps he'll be inducted into Australia MSN's world's worst tattoos hall of shame. A group rivalled by those featured in this blog: Most unfortunate tattoos for a mugshot.