Art work above by Alex Binnie.
On September 18th, the highly anticipated "Body Electric" exhibit at the Ricco Maresca gallery in NYC will open, featuring the fine art work of a stellar roster of tattooists, who include Saira Hunjan, Jef Palumbo, Duke Riley, Noon, Nazareno Tubaro, Amanda Wachob, Jacqueline Spoerle, Colin Dale, Scott Campbell, Peter Aurisch, Chuey Quintanar, Horiren First, Alex Binnie, Minka Sicklinger, David Hale, Stephanie Tamez, Virginia Elwood, and Yann Black.
The show is guest curated by the wonderful Margot Mifflin, author of Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo (and my co-conspirator in recent lectures, including Women's Ink). In her essay, "Visionary Tattoo," Margot writes that "tattooing has sprung free in the new millennium, liberated by artists who combine fresh concepts, holistic design, and masterful technique in thrillingly original styles." It is this "new generation of conceptual trailblazers" whose work Margot and the Ricco Maresca gallery have chosen to display in "Body Electric." Margot further writes:
The visual art featured here reflects their tattoo sensibility--the next best thing to showcasing the living canvases that bear their designs. They hail from around the globe: In Lucerne, for example, Jacqueline Spoerle uses Swiss folk motifs in lyrical silhouettes perfectly suited to tattoo's inherently graphical nature. In Los Angeles, Chuey Quintanar takes fine line black and grey portraiture to a new level of grace and power. New Yorker Duke Riley's maritime narratives betray a blush of nostalgia through strong line work and meticulous cross-hatching. In Argentina, Nazareno Tubaro blends tribal, Op Art, and geometric patterns in flowing compositions that embrace and complement human musculature. And in Athens, Georgia, David Hale, a relative newcomer, folds the curvilinear lines of Haida art into his folk-inflected nature drawings.I'm incredibly excited to attend on the 18th, not simply to view the works, but also to spend time with a number of the artists who will be arriving specifically for this exhibit. For one, Nazareno Tubaro of Argentina, one of my most favorite blackwork artists, will be at the show (and he'll also be a guest at Kings Avenue Tattoo NYC from 9-12 to 9-15). In addition to those artists whose work is on display, I hear many more will come to celebrate the opening. I hope you'll join us as well.
Art work above by Horiren First.
Art work above by Colin Dale.
Italian tattooer and painter Lara Scotton has made NYC her permanent home since 2011, and as part of the East Side Ink crew, she's catered to the tattoo needs of the city -- and to many cities in her extensive travels. She graciously took time from busy schedule to chat about her work, life, and share what's currently on her bookshelf, in her headphones, and on her computer (and much more). Here's how our Q&A went:
What do you think has been your greatest experience as a tattooer -- and what has been the most difficult?
Not too long ago, a took a day to tattoo an entire family of 6 cousins. They were my clients already and it was great having people all around that want to commemorate their union and you are the chosen one to do it! I'm the family tattooer. I find the bond between tattooer and clients beautiful, when they keep coming back and they ended up being your friend. Same thing when you have to tattoo another artist, especially if it's a friend. I can keep going on tho...it is such a pleasure doing what I'm doing.
The most difficult experience for sure was the beginning, struggling to try to work everyday, and show people that you are really serious about it. Working in 4 different shops, sometimes far from each other, carrying all the equipment around -- that was really hard and confusing at the same time.
When did you join East Side Ink?
I used to guest spot at East Side Ink when I was traveling between Europe an US. I was in the States spending three months in the summer and three months in the winter; that was in 2010/2011. Then one day, I was working in London and the East Side Ink manager called me to ask me if I wanted to come to New York; they needed an artist at the time. The very next day I bought my flight ticket, and a month after, I moved to New York. Now are 3 years I'm there as a permanent tattooer.
What have been the biggest differences in tattoo culture between NYC and your hometown of Milan?
NYC was a good school for me. I feel like I really started tattooing in here. People can be easy: they go from having no tattoos, to starting a full sleeve. I feel Milan and Italy didn't reach that point yet. People think a little more about having a sleeve done. They start with little things and eventually they getting bigger work done.
You have a diverse portfolio, with some particularly beautiful lettering work. What style of tattooing do you particularly love to do?
I like to do lettering. I love drawing the tattoo for my clients, and I try to put flowers in everything that I do. I love doing black and gray and colors with patterns and Asian influences.
What would be your dream project?
Dream project? Well, having an entire body to tattoo would be great!
Do you find a lot of tattoo influences in your painting, and vice versa?
Yes, lately I found it really hard to paint something that doesn't look like a tattoo design. It gets all mixed up. But that doesn't happen the same way when I have to tattoo. When I'm working on skin,I'm always trying to think about how it is going to stay after few years.
What guest spots and conventions do you have coming up?
I'll be at Everlasting Tattoo in San Francisco at the end of July (I'm doing guest spot there every three months); at The Family Business in London at the end of August; and in the beginning of September I'll be in Italy -- Adrenaline in Follonica, Tik tak Tattoo in Cantu' e and probably in another shop in Milan, but I didn't decide yet. Next year I would love to do more European conventions but I didn't go that far yet with planning.
What is something that people would find most unexpected about you?
I play tennis every Wednesday and I have a lot of plants!
What are you currently ...
Reading? "Sacred Bleu" by Christopher Moore
Listening? I'm going backward with music; yesterday I was listening to Mad Season.
Watching? I just watched How to be a Man on Netflix. Really funny!
Following? I follow More Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan.
Finding? I was at a concert and I saw Jimmy Page.
Find more of Lara's work on her site, Instragram, and Facebook.
The NYC tattoo community -- rather, the worldwide tattoo community -- has lost a true gem with the recent passing of Mike Bakaty of Fineline Tattoo, the longest continually running tattoo shop in Manhattan since 1976.
I learned of Mike's passing through his friend Dana Brunson, who also pointed out a touching tribute by former Skin & Ink editor Bob Baxter. Bob encouraged Mike to write a column for Skin & Ink called "Bakaty's World," which showed the world what an amazing storyteller Mike was as well as an artist. In Bob's memorial post, he published one of Mike's stories. Here's an excerpt:
Back around the time that it dawned on me that I could draw better than what I was doing off of the few sheets of commercial flash I had, I was tattooing a number of young guys from the Lower East Side, aspiring bent-nosed types, you know what I mean? Whenever they got work, you'd be paid in single dollar bills. If you did an eighty-buck piece, you got eighty singles. The one time I asked about it, the response was, "You do dollar action, you get dollar bills."
Read more on Baxter's Tattoo Blog.
I'm lucky to have had to pleasure of meeting Mike. Back in my old Needled.com days, Mike and his son Mehai were the first artists featured in our tattooist video profiles (published in 2007), which I've embedded below. In the video, Mike talks about tattooing underground during NYC's tattoo ban, which was lifted in 1997, and also how he came to tattooing as a fine artist ("You didn't have to kiss dealers' asses to get an exhibition"). The video is a good way to spend 4:54 minutes.
Mike left his mark, and he will be fondly remembered by so many.
With the NYC Tattoo Convention in town this upcoming weekend, there are many events leading up to it, particularly, some exciting art shows.
One show I'm looking forward to attending is Blunted Paranoia, which features the collaborative works of Carlos Little and David Sena at the tattoo studio and art gallery, SenaSpace, located at 229 Centre Street, NYC. The artists will be presenting new drawings and some sculpture, along with a device for making their next series of drawings. They offer this on the show:
IEAD Fireworks Hardware Candy Cigarettes 229 Lungs Oil Tar Bar Smoke Bombs USA Map 10 Gallon Hat Hurricane Iraqi Map 111 Cat Heads Combustion Blunts 157 Logo Boot Optics Mushrooms Fuse Respirator DMT May 1975 Cooper Union The Tombs McKibben Street Carfire Where's The L At? Zack Thompson Street Tattoo Construction Site Brooklyn Swedish Girls Fire Robbers Weed Terrorism Doom Dance 9/11 Rooftops Terrorists Travel London Amsterdam '93 Till Infinity Raves Strip Search Bunker 255 Juice Bar Spot Crack Weed Invaders Washington Square Summons Sulphur.Blunted Paranoia is open May 16th through June 16th. We'll be at the opening this Thursday, which takes place from 6PM-9PM, with an afterparty following to celebrate the birthdays of both artists with DJ, drinks, and treats. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I just secured my next tattoo appointment with Daniel DiMattia, of Calypso Tattoo when he comes into New York for the NYC Tattoo Convention, May 17-19, so I'm excited, especially considering that I only get tattooed once a year now. But it's interesting to watch how my body suit is slowly coming together, piece by piece. Last May, he tattooed my ribs -- which wasn't fun -- but this time it should be easier with small calf work. I'll be posting photos in two weeks of my new work when it's done.
Dan is booked out for the time, but consider taking a trip to Liege, Belgium, the home of Calypso Tattoo. Dan will also be working the London Tattoo Convention in September. Oh, and we'll be there too!
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.
Today is the birthday of my dear friend Tim Kern of Tribulation Tattoo (check their fancy new site). Many know Tim for his "creepy cute" creations, but really, Tim is one of the most versatile artists I know, creating exceptional works in vastly different genres.
He is also an incredible painter. He is wicked in karaoke. And his wife is super hot.
I could go on, but I'll let his bio speak further:
Tim Kern is a rotten carny bastard. A seventh-generation twin, he was born in a state of Misery... Half-cooked and with a lazy eye. Over the years, he has developed a passion for human oddities, prestidigitation, and serial killers. Tim has been a tattoo artist since 1995, and works at Tribulation Tattoo in NYC. If seen, do not approach, and shoot on sight.I'll also add to that a little known fact: Tim tattooed my most secret tattoo--a signature caricature piece on the back of my head, as shown disembodied below. [Photo by Til Krautkramer.]
Check more of Tim's work on Facebook and Instagram. There's also his free portfolio iPhone app powered by BodyMod.org.
His work will get in your head. [Yup, I said it.]
I'm often asked about blackwork and dotwork tattooing in NYC, and really, compared to other parts of the world, there aren't as many who specialize in the style (although the number of greats is growing). So, I'm always excited when those who need nothing to travel with but black ink arrive for guest spots in NYC.
One of my faves is Kenji Alucky of Black Ink Power.
The native of Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido, Japan has been tattooing on the road and is now a guest artist at NY Adorned in Manhattan. I believe that appointments are still available, but not for long as Kenji will only be a guest until January 31st. You can hit up NY Adorned by phone at 212.473.0007 or via email: info [at] nyadorned.com.
In a city teeming with many of the world's stellar tattooists, David Sena has consistently stood out as one of NYC's finest for his exceptionally strong and vivid Japanese tattoos as well as bold and beautiful blackwork -- some of the best in the US.
I met David over a decade ago at a tattoo convention in New Jersey. Actually, I first met his client with a blackwork aquatic-themed bodysuit, whom I accosted to find out who did the work. He then took me to David, who seemed a bit confused by this short redhead spewing all kinds of questions at him in the usual hyper state I'm in when I excited by exceptional tattoos. Thankfully, I didn't scare him off and we became friends.
As his friend, I've gotten a front row seat to watch the transformation of his large-scale tattoo projects as well as his fire art; however, David describes his work best:
My fine artwork is created with a technique of drawing by burning marks on paper with fireworks and other volatile materials. These techniques are rooted in one of humankind's earliest technologies: fire, and as such they speak to something elemental in the human condition. Inspired by cosmology and the interconnection between terrestrial and celestial fires, my drawings become a record of their creation, a map pointing to the reason for human existence, or rather the outer limits, the infinite, the space not yet grasped. These two means of creating - tattooing and burning-- have a unique synergy, as they both entail physical and ritualistic processes of mark-making while transforming matter/people.David now has a new space to create his tattoos and fine art: Senaspace in NYC's Little Italy. And he's inviting all of you to its grand opening on 12.12.12, from 6-10pm (afterparty to follow). At the opening, there will be an exhibition of his latest works and live fire drawing demo.
David says of the space: "This gallery and tattoo studio is a reflection of my lifelong interest in diverse modes of artistic expression, and my conviction that art is not a luxury but a sublime human need. I hope this space speaks to you on an aesthetic, visceral, and personal level."
I've already visited the studio and it's a gorgeous space. He plans to regularly feature expositions, projects and guest spots by local and international artists in all mediums. So you'll be hearing more from David here.
SENASPACE, 229 Centre St. NY NY 10013, 212-966-5151, senaspace.com
Just got back into Brooklyn and wishing for a few more days of vacation, but to help me ease back into the NY grind -- and appreciate the treasures of the city -- our friend Nick Schonberger sent us the link to this wonderful BBC video interview with Tony Polito.
Tony is the very definition of a Brooklyn tattoo legend. He started in the business at the age of 14 in 1959 and continues to tattoo today (although he closed his Crown Heights studio last year). In the video, you'll hear him talk about tattooing sailors from the Navy Yard, his penchant for pin-ups, and the 1961 NYC tattoo ban, which forced him to work underground (literally, his basement) for a while. You'll also catch Tony tattooing another tattoo luminary of Brooklyn, Mike Perfetto aka Michaelangelo.
The footage is just over three minutes and leaves you wanting more from this old salt. But I have good news! Tony, Mike and many others will be featured in an upcoming book on native Brooklyn tattoo artists, culture and history by Pete Caruso, aka Brooklyn P. With such a strong tattoo heritage in the borough and stellar art being created, it will be an important addition to your tattoo library. More on the book when it's ready to drop.
Meanwhile, check the video to get a taste of Tony's stories.
Last Thursday, Brian and I attended Tokio Confidential, a musical that centers around Japanese culture and tattooing. Yes, a tattoo musical. How could we not see it?
Written and composed by Eric Schorr and directed by Johanna McKeon, Tokio Confidential takes place in Japan in 1879, a time when tattooing was outlawed and underground (although an exception was made for tourists wishing a permanent souvenir). One such visitor is Isabella Archer, a young widow who lost her husband in the American Civil War, and who travels to Japan to find the beauty and magic her husband so often spoke of and promised to show her. Upon arrival, she meets fellow American Ernest and his gay lover Akira who bring her to Tokyo's pleasure district and soon introduce her to Horiyoshi (sound familiar?), who becomes her tattoo artist and lover. Horiyoshi transforms her into a work of art, which leads to a dark end.
... an end I won't spoil for anyone who wants to see the play at the Atlantic Theater Stage 2 in Manhattan before it closes this weekend on February 19th.
Tokio Confidential is meticulously researched (research supported in part by The Asian Cultural Council) and you get the feeling that Schorr is covered in tattoos, although he says in The Huffington Post that he's just a "tattoo voyeur." The cast sing of ukiyo-e, Japanese woodblocks prints that inspired traditional tattoo designs, and of tebori, the hand tattooing method. The mostly grey-haired crowd got a full education on the art form. But we wondered if they'd retain it. Beautiful voices carry each lesson within lyrics like "lots of money, lots of pain" and "what have I done," but there are no real choruses to sing and remember once you leave the theater. Perhaps, it would be best if the academics are left in the dialog, and the tunes were catchier. It is musical theater after all.
Beyond tattooing and woodblock prints, Schorr explores other Japanese arts like Noh, which he describes as "one of the oldest forms of what we might call musical theater" that "artfully and seamlessly combine speech, song, and dance." It took me a while in the beginning to realize that the abstraction of the cast's movements were a nod to Noh, and it was a bit distracting; however, I did enjoy the choreography when placed in the context of a Noh performance within the story line.
The cast and orchestra are indeed fantastic, and Jill Paice who plays the lead Isabella has the luminescent skin that tattooists would die to work on. [And that's also noted in the dialogue.] Yet they are given the task to capture the soul of tattooing, to truly convey the experience of transformation, the raw desire to endure pain for art. And how does one do it in a two-hour musical?
It's a valiant effort but almost impossible to accomplish.
For more on Tokio Confidential, see the video below as well as interviews with Shorr and Mckeon, and bios of cast and crew. Tickets are still available for performances through Sunday.
I love New York but sometimes I feel New York doesn't love me back. The rents continue to soar, with a middle finger up at the recession. What were once my favorite dive bars now have velvet ropes and lists to get in. Our rock & roll institutions are vanishing: CBGB's is a high-end boutique, punk mecca Coney Island High on St. Marks now is a noodle joint, and then there's the heartbreak of the Chelsea Hotel.
The landmark hotel was once home to musicians, artists, writers, and all forms of beautiful freaks like Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Charles Bukowski, Sid & Nancy ... and it was the home of Darren Rosa's Rising Dragon Chelsea Tattoo Company. That is, until this past Halloween when the tattoo studio had to move because the new management decided it didn't fit the "lifestyle" they wanted the property to embody. [The NY Times did a great story on how the developers squeezed Darren out and also some residents.]
Darren operated the shop at the Chelsea since 1997, when tattooing became legal in NYC. In 2007, when his lease was not fully renewed (only month to month), he had the foresight to open a second Rising Dragon, which is located at West 14th, just off of Sixth Avenue -- a busy Manhattan location. To house all of his artists, from the original shop to the new, Darren then negotiated a space at the top floor of the West 14th building. And now the studio expansion is ready to get blood and green soap all over it.
Naturally, this is cause for a party! This Sunday, January 15th, Rising Dragon will be celebrating with live music and drinks in its new warm and cozy studio, from 6:30PM to midnight. See photos of the new space here. More info on their Facebook page.
When the music is over and the bottles are empty, the Rising Dragon artists will be back at work hustling -- including those coming over from the old Chelsea shop like Carlos Gonzales as well as Horisei of Yokohama, who is a regular guest artist doing machine tattooing and traditional tebori.
And so Rising Dragon Tattoo continues to grow, ascending beyond adversity. It's a New York story and a reason to keep my love affair with the city.
The most perfect gift for tattoo artists, collectors, and anyone with a love of history and a good story is the Last of the Bowery Scab Merchants -- a two audio CD set filled with over 2 1/2 hours of tattoo tales by Walter Moskowitz, one of the legendary "Bowery Boys." More than something you put on your iPod or listen to in your car, it's truly a collectors item -- richly designed, with cover art by CIV, and a 24-page color booklet with old photos and essays written by Mike McCabe, Chuck Eldridge, and Brian Kates. I am also very honored to have contributed as well in the text and in audio.
Walter's son Doug offers a wonderful introduction and weaves his narration through Walter's stories, which were recorded prior to his passing in 2007. You'll hear about a great race-fixing horse caper, black eyes tattooed to look natural, life on the Bowery, and the Human Autograph, among so many other gems.
Read more in my initial post on the set in April. There are also some great reviews on Amazon, Book Mistress, and on the CDs' Facebook page.
For the holidays, Last of the Bowery Scab Merchants is being offered for only $19.99 on ScabMerchant.com. A must have!!
This Saturday, Nov. 26th, from 7-10PM, tattooer and musician Dan Smith will be signing his new book, "With the Light of Truth" at Sacred Gallery in SoHo, NYC.
Described as "A collection of tattoos, art, and profiles of some of the best Straight Edge tattoo artists in the world," the 256-page hardcover is filled with imagery that will inspire those beyond the drug & alcohol free community. [See sample pages below.]
In this video with Tattoo Artist Magazine, the LA Ink star says the "super-intensive" book is a project he's worked the hardest on in recent years, and represents his friends and something he cares a lot about. A list of artists featured and news on "With the Light of Truth" can be found on Facebook here.
The book is released by Memento Publishing and available for purchase via Dan's online store or at the book signing at Sacred Gallery. Complimentary Shirley Temple drinks will also be served.
For those on the West Coast, there will also be a book signing on December 10th in LA at Kat Von D's Wonderland Gallery.
You can find more on Dan and his tattoo work at DanSmithTattoos.com. And to hear his music, head to Thedearanddeparted.com.
Art by Grez of Kings Ave.
Art by Steve Byrne.
Continuing our posts on noted upcoming events, on the East Coast, Sacred Gallery in NYC presents "Immortal Until Death: The Cemetery Landscapes and Portrait Photography of Nathaniel C. Shannon." The show opens this Saturday, Nov. 5th, and runs until Nov. 27th. The opening reception is Saturday from 7-10 PM. More info on Facebook.
Like the Idexa Stern and Aurora Meneghello collaboration, Nathaniel has documented the work of a renowned tattooist -- the godfather of neo-tribal tattooing Leo Zuluetta -- and his images are also featured in "Tattoo World" and my first book "Black Tattoo Art." But in this exhibition at Sacred, his photos from cemeteries are the focus of the show. Here's more background on this series:
In the November issue of Inked mag, on newsstands now, editor Rocky Rakovic interviews Michelle Myles, boss lady of NYC's Daredevil and Fun City tattoo studios (which she co-owns with Brad Fink).
In this refreshingly frank Q&A, Michelle talks about tattooing in NYC when it was still illegal and underground (the tattoo ban was lifted in 1997), the popularity of Americana tattoos among hipsters and how NY Ink is "cast like the Jersey Shore." Here's a taste of that talk:
Speaking of competition, how do you feel about NY Ink?
It's embarrassing. I mean, I really like Tim Hendricks -- nothing but respect for him and I actually don't know much about the other people or whoever it is on the show. But I think it is unrealistic and gross the way it is portrayed. It's so heavily scripted. They're not even New Yorkers. Chris Torres is the only one from New York; they cast NY Ink like its the Jersey Shore. But it's not even reality TV -- just bad acting. They think there's some kind of truth in it, and there isn't. I think I wrote on my blog DevilCitPpress.com, that to me, their tattoo shop is equivalent of Monica's apartment on Friends because it's so unrealistic. And to hear Ami [James] whine, "I'm not going to be able to pay the rent"... I heard he made two million dollars.
You seem pretty offended by it.
It's just absurd and gross to anyone trying to pay their rent in NYC for any amount of time to hear them say, "Oh, I hope to get business" when they have ads on the sides of buses. I mean, my neighborhood used to be a shit hole and now it's super trendy, but we somehow managed to hang on. So if anybody takes away from that and saunters in with a TV show, yes, I resent that.
But don't you want to riffraff tourists to fill up that shop and not yours?
We want the riffraff! We want anyone's money! Anyone who comes into my shop is going to be treated well. I mean, as long as they're in line. We don't tolerate someone who comes in and acts like a jerk. But we welcome anybody in our shop. It doesn't matter if you don't have tattoos or never have been to a tattoo shop. There are no stupid questions, and we're happy to take anybody. We're not going to make anybody feel bad because they're not cool enough.
In the rest of the interview, Michelle discusses how she came to the art, her influences, and why she loves being a New York tattooer. A fun read.
See more of Michelle's work here and check her musings on tattooing here.
"People tend to empathize with major events...until the next big thing happens. But we think the world's issues deserve more than just a moment of empathy. The Social Tattoo Project is making empathy permanent."
Making empathy permanent. The Social Tattoo Project description certainly got my attention. We live in a time when legions of people are sporting ironic self referential tattoos, parents are looking for cut-rate deals on baby portraits, and just too many have chosen to immortalize Kat Von D on their own bods. So tattoos used for social good could be a welcome relief -- a break from the fashion, marketing and general media clutches that have swooped in to co-opt an ancient art. Of course, The Social Tattoo Project is created by three interns at the BBH NY ad agency.
That said, these interns sold me on their experiment to blend art, social media and human interest together. It also helped that they partnered with our friends at Sacred Tattoo in SoHo, whose artists Matthew Adams and Jon Mesa are doing the actual tattooing.
Here's how the project works:
Our volunteers are getting tattoos that represent worldly issues, but they have no idea what their tattoos will be. They are letting you decide.
So far, five volunteers have gotten tattoos with the following topics: #human trafficking, #poverty, #Pray for Japan, #Norway, and #Haiti. The Haiti tribute tattoo video is shown below (finished tattoo is above).
All tattoo videos can be viewed on SocialTattooProject.com.
What makes me a bit uncomfortable, though, is the idea of having someone else choose your tattoo, particularly from the whims of social networking. The biggest twitter trend this week was the earthquake that hit the East Coast. And do we really want to see more of these "I Survived the Quake" tattoos? [In this case, I have little empathy for dumbassness.]
But whether you agree with the praxis or not, the theory behind The Social Tattoo Project is positive and interesting. Kudos to interns Haywood R. Watkins, Stephanie Krivitzky, and Jennifer Huang for their hard work on this.
Tattoo by Holly Azzara
It's party time tonight at the fabulous Sacred Gallery NYC in SoHo, from 8-10PM, celebrating the release of Color Tattoo Art: Comics. Cartoon. Pin-Up. Manga. New School. The 496-page hardcover -- which is graced with artwork such as those shown here -- will be available for the reduced rate of $150. [I'll also be selling any leftover books online for that same rate plus shipping. Hit me up at marisa at needlesandsins.com if interested.]
Special thanks goes out to sponsor Sailor Jerry Rum and to Sacred for hosting the event. There will also be other drinkies and pretty people. Hope to see y'all there!
Tattoo by Tony Ciavarro
Color Tattoo Art Book Release Party
424 Broadway 2nd Floor Rear
(Between Canal and Howard)
New York, NY 10013
Today, our friend Erik Sprague, aka, The Lizardman, unveils his new waxy doppelganger at New York's Ripley's Believe It or Not museum. Tomorrow and Sunday, he'll be performing live outside of of the museum in Times Square every hour on the hour, from 12pm to 7pm, and posing for pics (most likely sticking out his forked tongue or running your long curly locks through his septum (I speak from experience). [Then, he'll be partying with us at the Color Tattoo Art book party from 8-10 at Sacred Gallery. More info on Facebook.] Here's how Ripley's describe the wax statute:
Taking Ripley artists nearly 200 hours to create, the wax statuette portrays each detailed characteristic of Sprague's extreme body modifications from his forked tongue down to each tiny green scale, a process which started in August 2010 when Sprague spent days in the Ripley wax studios for a fully body casting. This life size figure will be the newest item on display in the main entrance of Ripley's Believe It or Not! Times Square.
To see the process of making the faux Lizardman, check this video. And for a list of upcoming performances, info on his band Lizard Skynard, and to buy his book "Once More Through the Modified Looking Glass," check TheLizardman.com.
French born, Los Angeles based tattooist, painter and sculptor BUGS will be exhibiting a new body of work entitled Purity in Motion at Sacred Gallery in SoHo. The opening reception is 7-11PM next Thursday, May 12th -- the night before the NYC Tattoo Convention, where Bugs will also be tattooing. The show will run through May 29th.
I talked with Bugs about his upcoming exhibit in our Q&A for Inked Magazine and learned that he had just returned to sculpting, a medium he was exited to get back into. When I further asked him about it, he replied:
I'm sketching new cubic women, starting small. I'm going to make them in bronze. Near my house is a foundry that deals with a lot of artists. I think it will be interesting to see my work in 3D, to see my work freely with all the angles of my design. I don't know if it will be popular or will sell but I don't care. I do it for me.Bugs will learn soon enough how the sculpture is received with this first unveiling of the work. The sculpture will be on view along with paintings that "reflect a mix of different techniques showing images of nudes." He adds, "Also included will be other subjects close to my heart from my background in France."
If you can't make it to the show, you can appreciate his distinct cubist and modern abstract style (like the work below) in his tattoo portfolio online. Bugs works at the Tattoo Lounge in LA, Thurs-Sat, and Victory Electric Tattoo Co., in Studio City, CA on Wednesdays.
TONIGHT AT SACRED: There will be a special one-night only Benefit for Japan in which all artwork will be priced at $200 or less, and all proceeds go to the Red Cross. Prints and original drawings from a stellar line-up of artists will be available. More info here.