All weekend, my social media feeds were blowing up with photos from the Philadelphia Tattoo Convention. My favorite images were those of tattoo legends (many of the Bristol Tattoo Club) gathering together for a great group shot (shown below). I particularly loved finding, in that photo, Charlene Anne Gibbons, daughter of famed tattooed lady "Artoria" and master tattooer Charles "Red" Gibbons. [As I wrote here last March, Charlene is in the process of writing a book on her parents. Read an excerpt in the post.]
The staggering lines to get into the convention could largely be attributed to renowned veteran tattooers in attendance (although there were lots of newer artists) or maybe the extremely inflated fake boobs with questionable tattoos on display. A #phillytattooconvention search may bring up more half naked bathroom selfies than artwork, but a lot of the tattoo photos were of strong work.
The press seemed to focus on one main thing: a performer catching fire in a fire-breathing act, which you can view above. It's worth waiting for the ridiculous ad to run before seeing the footage, taken by convention-goer Jeff Hurd, just to watch how cool the performer and those running the entertainment handle the flames. Nuts!
See more photos from the show on the convention's Facebook page and via Instagram and Twitter convention hashtags.
It seemed like all of Philadelphia was at the Sheraton City Center Hotel for the annual tattoo convention this past weekend. Driving over, we saw massive billboards on the highway as we entered the city as well as bus stop ads on numerous street corners; we even heard promos on repeat over the car radio. I turned to Brian and said, "That's the way to pack a show."
We didn't anticipate, however, just how packed it would be. Like most major shows, there was a line to get in but this seemed to bottleneck, leading some to elbow their way to the front of the line. Throngs of people pushed up the escalators to the reach two floors of booths where over 200 artists and vendors were waiting for them. And there was more pushing through the aisles to get to tattoo appointments or just watch others get work. There was plenty to watch. It seemed that most artists, at least Saturday, were candidates for carpal tunnel syndrome with their non-stop needling. Money was made.
Artists ranged from legends to a few newbies. You couldn't miss Philadelphia Eddie when you walked into the main tattoo room -- always with a sharp suit and sharper tongue. He was signing his book "Tattooing: The Life and Times of Crazy Philadelphia Eddie," which is filled with wild stories as expected. [You can buy it online here.] Next to him was another old school bad boy, Stan Moskowitz, who tattooed excited fans looking for a piece of history. Further down the aisle was Annette LaRue of Electric Ladyland Tattoo in New Orleans who promised me some good stories from her decades of tattooing for an upcoming interview. And there were countless others I had a blast hanging out with in scarce quiet moments.
Actually, "quiet" should never be used in the context of the Philly show. It was raucous, complete with hardcore from Murphy's Law and bikini bull-riding. A guy in a zombie Gumby costume paraded around taking pictures with aspiring "tattoo models." Plenty of preening throughout the hotel. Sailor Jerry Rum specials swilled in plastic cups. As is the case at most shows, booze is boss. But what you didn't see were biker fights of two years ago with a strict "No Colors" policy in effect. It's great when not all tattoo stereotypes are represented.
If any of this post sounds snotty, well, I quite literally caught a cold at the show and had to bail earlier than expected. But these dysfunctional family reunions make me happy nonetheless and it was worth the trip.
We only took a few photos of the show, posted here on Flickr, but Snakegirl Productions's Flickr pages have plenty of great shots. Some pics are also being posted on the convention's Facebook wall. If you have images of your own you'd like to share, hit us up.
UPDATE: See photos from the show on Driven By Boredom -- many not safe for work.
This Friday is the book release party and art show of A Novel Idea? The Art of Dave Fox at JINXED/The Toothless Cat in Northern Liberties, Philadelphia. The opening coincides with the Philadelphia Tattoo Arts Convention that runs from Friday through Sunday. [Dave will also be hosting the closing party for the convention.]
A Novel Idea? is a 240-page collection of Dave's paintings spanning over 13 years, compiled in a hardcover deluxe format released by Presto Publishing. It includes a parade of the trippy characters who populate Dave's tattoos as well as fine art. At the opening, 20 original paintings from the book will be on display and for sale. Dave will be signing copies of A Novel Idea?, which can be purchased for $40.
Renowned for his "new school" work since the nineties, Dave continues to inspire, invigorating his new works with a blend of Japanese iconography and animated compositions. Dave says that he's inspired by cartoon and heavy metal album artwork, creating "an eclectic, contently-confused mix of scary monsters, pretty girls, twisted flowers, and disturbed animals that have been known to send the viewer home laughing or leaving cross-eyed with a feeling of pure meaninglessness." All in good fun, of course.
Dave is currently working at Black Vulture Gallery, in Fishtown, Philly. For appointments, email him at davefoxtattoos at comcast.net.
View more of his tattoos and paintings on DaveFoxTattoos.com.
I was gonna wait till the fabulous Brian Grosz finished coding the new Needles and Sins site before I posted (he came outta web design retirement for this!), but I was so excited with the extensive and excellent photos of the Philadelphia Tattoo show by Sean Toussaint that I just couldn't wait!
Sean, Brian and I battled hangovers Sunday morning and made our way to Philly to catch the last day of the convention there, which boasted some great artists in attendance, informative seminars and a fine art component. Yes, we were feelin pretty fancy despite our recession-necessary bus ride over. Ok, maybe we did wanna see a little sexy hair pulling between Suicide Girls, God's Girls and Gypsy Queens but I assure you it was largely about the "highbrow" and "tattoo couture."
Upon arrival, impressed with the multi-level set-up at the Sheraton Philadelphia City Center, we decided to make our way through the show, floor by floor, starting with Bloody Marys in the lobby bar. But -- as has been the case in the past -- some asshole pulled the fire alarm. The convention was evacuated and hoards of tattoorati crowded outside shivering. There, Sean began his photographic quest with so much charm and flare that people stripped down further in the cold for the Haitian Sensation.
[In the interest of full disclosure, Sean and I have lunch dates where we practice the choreography of Beyonce videos, so yeah, I have a fag hag crush on him.]
Moving on ...
When we were finally allowed back into the building, we were shortly treated to a biker brawl, which was almost immediately quashed by an army of cops.
And where did said army come from?
Well, they were already there to keep things safe as Vice President Joe Biden shmoozed around Philly and found himself at the Sheraton. The VP did not get tattooed; however, rumor has it that he was jumped into the Pagans.
The two-minute gang war took place outside the tattooing areas, so the buzzing went largely unbothered. When the cops finally cleared, I was able to watch some stellar tattoo work being done, like tattooist Dave Wallin taking a break to get traditional Japanese hand poke tattooing by Bunshin Horitoshi; or North Star's David Sena working non-stop on his signature "angry black" tattooing; or even my Brooklyn buddy Jaz doing black and grey portraiture.
My favorite part of conventions is being introduced to great artists whose work I havent come across before like Christian Masot of Silk City Tattoo in New Jersey. What was most impressive about Christian was how his clients sang his praises repeatedly, not just for the artistry but for the man he is, and I think that's so important, especially when spending hours on end with someone poking ya. You should at least like the person right? Or are we all just snobby tattoo sluts?
In fact, there were A LOT of new artists doing amazing work with just a few years under their belts. Such is the state of fine art tattooing these days, and while many need to lose a bit of the immature rock star divaness, I'm not gonna complain after seeing many beautiful works of art walking around the show.