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 Prick magazine has a good Q&A with him, although now a bit out of date as Jon is back tattooing in New York.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.
Yesterday, The New England Journal of Medicine published the article "Tattoo Ink-Related Infections --Awareness, Diagnosis, Reporting, and Prevention." The article is based on investigations by The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) into an outbreak of tattoo-related skin infections cased by a family of bacteria called nontuberculous Mycobacteria (NTM) that has been found in a recent outbreak of illnesses linked to contaminated tattoo inks. Coordinating their investigation with state and local health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they discovered 22 confirmed cases of this infection primarily in New York as well as Washington, Iowa, and Colorado. It was found that the inks were contaminated before distribution and is believed to have occurred during the production process. The inks in which the bacteria were found have been recalled.
You can find all the details in the following reports:
* FDA: Tattoo Inks Pose Health Risks
* CDC: The Hidden Dangers of Getting Inked
* CDC: Tattoo-Associated Nontuberculous Mycobacterial Skin Infections -- Multiple States, 2011-2012
Here are some key aspects of the reports I think are worth highlighting:
First, the FDA is quick to note that no matter how diligently tattooists follow hygienic procedures, infections can still incur because the bacteria were found in non-opened bottles of ink and contamination is not often visible.
Fourteen of the confirmed NTM infections, specifically Mycobacterium chelonae, came from Upstate Tattoo Company in Rochester, NY. YNN.com reports that one of the tattooists bought ink at an Arizona tattoo convention and used it on clients and the co-owner of the shop. A second supply was then ordered and that batch had the bacteria. The ink allegedly is "Catfish Carl's Realistic Wash." While the CDC does not specifically name the inks recalled, on the FDA's Enforcement report for May 23rd, 2012, it does list a recall of three different Catfish Carl's Realistic Washes. Ynn.com says that Upstate Tattoo is considering legal action against the ink manufacturer.
[Update: Upstate Tattoo Co. has been given a clean bill of health by the Monroe County Health Department, which stated the shop followed all hygienic procedures.]
The infection was first identified by a dermatolgist who contacted The Monroe County Health Department when a patient's rash persisted for a long time after receiving a tattoo at Upstate. The rash was located in the specific area where the grey wash was used, not throughout the entire tattoo. This sparked the investigation.
The CDC blog says that, after it was notified about these NY cases, it issued a public health alert and found two clusters of tattoo-associated NTM skin infections in Washington state, one in Iowa, and one in Colorado. Contamination was found in inks produced by other manufacturers, which they do not identify, and could have come from unsanitary manufacturing processes or the use of contaminated ingredients. It adds the following key fact:
[...] All were related to inks likely contaminated by non-sterile water either during the manufacturing process or during dilution by the tattoo artist just prior to tattooing a client.
Non-sterile water includes filtered or distilled water as well as tap and regular bottled water.
NTM infections look like allergic reactions and can be hard to diagnose and treat. Different types of antibiotics are often prescribed. [Ointments won't treat the problem.] If not properly treated, the FDA says that Mycobacterium chelonae can cause lung disease, joint infection, eye problems and other organ infections.According to the FDA's Office of Cosmetics and Colors, Dr. Linda Katz, if you experience tattoo-related complications, notify your tattooist and the FDA through its MedWatch program.
"Tattourist" Jason Tyler Grace sold his possessions and set out to travel the world in early 2010, immersing himself in life-changing experiences, personally and professionally. He says in his first Tattoo Artist Magazine column: "I had no idea at all what a huge fucking impact this [traveling] would have on me and my work or what it would do for my outlook on tattooing, the craft, the industry and the community." In that column and subsequent writing on TAM, he shares his wild and wonderful adventures, and you can indeed see the impact of them in the tattoo works he posted along the way.
Now, JTG is settling down and making NYC his home. This month, he joined the stellar crew of Kings Avenue Tattoo and will be working at both locations -- two days a week in Massapeque, Long Island and three days a week on the Bowery in Manhattan. He says on his blog:
Jason employs vastly different visual imagery, so that you may find old school traditional work next to LA-styled black & gray next to graphic abstract art throughout his portfolio. Check his tattoos on Facebook as well as his blog and website.
To make an appointment, contact Kings Avenue Tattoo via email email@example.com or phone [LI: 516-799-5464 and NYC: 212-431-5464].
For those on the East Coast, I have another fantastic event, also on Saturday July 21: The worlds of tattooing and visionary art will come together in a live event at Alex Grey's historic Chapel of Sacred Mirrors in upstate New York. Veteran tattooists Guy Aitchison and Michele Wortman will be teaching a workshop on Visionary Tattooing -- that is, tattoos that come from the imagination that are done with the intention of healing, empowerment or positive transformation. There's limited seating available. Click here for ticket info.
For those who can't make it in person, there will be a free live webcast of the evening's events beginning at 5:00pm EST. Go to www.tattoonowtv.com/visionary_tattoo.html to tune in and be a part of it online.
The events will include the following:
** A screening of the documentary "Innerstate," nominated for Best Documentary at the 2010 Great Lakes Film Festival, about tattooists creating visionary paintings. Here's the trailer below.
** A dynamic panel talk on visionary, magical and ritual tattooing, featuring Alex and Allyson Grey, Guy Aitchison, Michele Wortman, James Kern and Natan Alexander.
** A live painting event that will go from the end of the panel talk until the wee hours. Alex, Allyson, Guy and Michele will be creating visionary paintings while DJs keep the energy going. You can check out some previous live painting events here and here.
Check this short promo trailer for The Visionary Tattoo below.
To view Guy & Michele's tattoo work, including the pieces below, head to Hyperspacestudios.com and their studio's Facebook page.
Tattoo by Guy above.
Tattoo by Michele Wortman.
This Friday, October 21st at 6:15, Yoni Zilber of New York Adorned will be part of the "Artists on Art" discussion series at the Rubin Museum of Art, where he'll talk about his study of Tibetan art and its relation to tattooing.
Tattooing since 1998, the Israeli-born tattooist artist in various styles including Thai, art nouveau, and ornamental art. Yoni says he is especially drawn to Tibetan art for its sensitive lines and rich compositions, which he says contour beautifully with the body. To excel at this style, however, requires not only technical skill, but also a keen sense of proportion, an appreciation for symbolism, and a respect for tradition.
For some time, Yoni studied Tibetan art on his own but sought out a mentor who could help him take his art to the next level. In 2007, while studying Tibetan paintings at the Rubin Museum, he met Pema Rinzin, an accomplished Tibetan tangka painter and contemporary artist whose work can be found in the Dalai Lama's temple in India. After several encounters, Rinzin agreed to take Yoni on as his apprentice. Committed to learning the intricacies of this ancient art, Yoni says he applies these lessons daily in his tattoo work.
To see more of Yoni's portfolio, check his website and blog.
I'm having my morning coffee when my email dings and it's Refinery29.com telling me to check out the "Scott Campbell Makes a Prison Tattoo" video with the description below:
The vid follows Campbell around NYC while he searches for supplies to make a homemade "prison tattoo" gun, which consists of a nine-volt battery, a toothbrush, and masking tape, among other random things. Of course, Neistat [viral video virtuoso] wants a piece of the action, drug-deal-ishly meeting up with Scott in Tompkins Square Park to bare his forearm for his own "prison tattoo."[Actually, Scott tattoos another guy, not Neistat.]
Ok, so I'm already angry. And then I press play. There's Scott buying batteries and a toothbrush and digging through garbage for the rest of the parts but all the while he's discussing tattoo art and his own experiences in a thoughtful and compelling way. And I'm getting confused. I want to hate this. Then there's the little voice inside of me saying, This is kinda cool, as a watch him talk and nonchalantly put the "gun" together. And I'm ashamed. But then we get to the end and some dude shows up and sits down on a bench next to Scott in Tompkins Square Park--a bench upon which I've seen too many junkies having sex--and then I'm just thinking, Eww. I understand the hipster irony of getting a (rather well done) "Bless this Mess" tattoo in a place the homeless use as a toilet, but eww nonetheless.
Overall, I give this film a thumbs down. Your thoughts? Share them on Facebook in the Needles & Sins group page under this post.
As we continue through a month that is immortalized in rhyme for it's persistent precipitation, I feel the need to discuss Umbrella Etiquette - a "lost art," if you will, in the bustling metropolis of Gotham.
Unless you are wearing a gold buttoned jacket in front of the Ritz-Carlton or you're carrying a bag of Big Berthas behind Tiger Woods, you are, under no circumstances allowed to be wielding one of those gigantor-brellas worthy of a PGA tour. While I appreciate your desire to exist in a bone-dry kineosphere when the weather is inclimate, you're an inconsiderate asshole to the rest of us.
While on the issue of umbrella-circumference, please keep this formula in mind:
H*(1/2) = D(u)
Simply put, you don't get to weild an umbrella that has a diamter larger than half your height. Case closed, end of story, no negotiating. I shouldn't be seeing any of you little Hobbits walking around with what is essentially a House and Garden gazebo over your head. The only thing as annoying as catching an umbrella's tine my eye (see Rule #1) is having my lit cigarette crushed into my hand because Toulouse-Lautrec and his Shroud of Unnacountability decided to stop short to answer a phone call (which, it goes without saying, is NEVER a reason to stop walking).
When exiting the subway station, wait until you've reached the sidewalk before opening your umbrella. Its rather unlikely that you're related to a Wicked Witch out West, so a few seconds of moisture isn't going to return you to the soil and loam of the earth. The confined quarters of the staircase is NOT the place to suddenly extend the neurotoxin laced quills of your umbrella like some horrifying, urbanite blowfish.
Upright, you assholes. UPRIGHT! It's bad enough that you swing your arms like some hyperbolized George Jefferson, but when the sun comes out long enough to justify closing your umbrella, I should never find myself the victim of an impromptu sidewalk vasectomy that would make Mengele wince.
The building is under construction, so the sidewalk is now even narrower than usual and it's beneath covered scaffolding. Either close it up or raise it up, Mr. Scoops. Otherwise you're going to find yourself in a close-quarters death-match that will put that Uma/Darryl trailer park scene in Kill Bill to shame. Oh, and I'll be taking more than your one good eye...
Most of the civilized world thinks of us New Yawkers as fast-talking, foul-mouthed, over-caffienated busybodies who wouldn't piss down your throat if your stomach was on fire. Personally, I think most of this assumption is false; there is a camraderie that exists between us Folks of the Five Boroughs. A sense of kindred-consciousness amongst all of us who pay far too much for rent and yet feel like we have to apologize to panhandlers. Snake Plisken might not be on the island yet, but it's a prison in which we're all doing time and these foxholes force us all to believe in a higher power...
But Fuck Almighty, it's JUST RAIN!