The recent tattoo news had some groan worthy moments, celebrity sparkle, and a glimmer of culture. Here's what went down.
Those with respect for tattooing let out a collective "Ugh!" on social media when learning that a new chain of Whole Foods could include tattoo shops and record stores. Tons of media outlets covered it but Vice's article was my fave, especially with this opener:
Imagine a place where you could get a deer antler tattoo while eating quinoa chips and buying your fav Tame Impala record. A retail space so youthful and vibrant that you could get your bicycle repaired while shopping for ethically raised cuts of meat. That dream (or nightmare) may soon become reality thanks to Whole Foods.The Whole Foods hipster pitch comes in the form of "365 by Whole Foods," a cheaper, younger version of the pricey kale-shilling giant. Maybe a one-stop-shop for Pinterest tattoos wouldn't be so bad, but this would leave a lot of shop-girls/boys without walk-ins to roll their eyes at.
Vice also came through with their Trump tattoos feature, in which they asked those who got Trump tributes, "Why? Oh, why?" In my post last week on "Presidential Tattoos," I wrote on Bob Holmes of Clay Dragon Tattoo offering free tattoos of The Donald's name, slogan, or even face. Vice went to Clay Dragon to see what that was about. The people they spoke to ranged from a felon who was not even able to vote, to a local peace officer who just kept repeating the slogan "Make American great again," to a construction worker who got fancy with his free tattoo featuring Trump in front of an American flag, ripping open his shirt, and exposing a Superman logo. Yup, great again.
Beyond our borders, some beautiful tattoo work is coming out of Cuba, as ABC reports of the tattoo resurgence in the country; however, artists struggle with the industry being "alegal," that is, neither illegal nor explicitly permitted and regulated, and subject to the whims of officials. But progress on this front is being made:
In the middle of last year, state inspectors raided at least a half dozen Havana tattoo parlors, confiscating tattooing machines, needles and inks without providing a clear explanation. Alarmed, other parlor owners closed in order to avoid confiscation.In tabloid news, Lady Gaga and Angelina got new tattoos. I usually avoid sharing celeb stories, but these two are noteworthy.
Lady Gaga's David Bowie portrait tribute was tattooed by one of the godfathers of contemporary black & grey work, Mark Mahoney of Shamrock Social Club.
And Angelina was seen in Cambodia with new hand-poked Thai tattoos, purportedly by Bangkok-based artist Ajarn Noo Kanpai.
Finally, if you enjoy seeing paintings by old masters reimagined as tattoo models, check the work of Paris-based artist Nicolas Amiard.
One of the godfathers of American black-and-gray Chicano style tattooing, Freddy Negrete, is renowned for taking the single-needle technique, common in prisons and gang culture, and raising it to a level of fine art. Having been in prison himself and overcoming addiction and other adversities, Freddy is giving back by partnering with Project Save Art to produce limited edition temporary tattoos of his famous "Smile Now, Cry Later" design -- the proceeds of which will be donated to the William James Association, which provides art workshops for inmates that "teach self-discipline, problem-solving, and concentration through absorption in a specific creative endeavor."
In the video above, Freddy talks about the evolution of black & grey, the meanings behind "Smile Now, Cry Later," and a bit of his own personal story.
The temporary tattoos are not just a way to collect art from an iconic tattooer, but also funds opportunities for even more inmates' lives to be changed through art. The tattoos are available for purchase now on SaveArt.com.
To see more of Freddy's tattoos (like the ones below), hit up his Instagram, and check Project Save Art on Instagram as well.
Tattoo above by Brian "Dr." Woo of Shamrock Social Club.
Really fascinating tattoo headlines were published this week, with news from around the world. Here are my faves:
Euronews has this article on the first ever tattoo expo in Egypt and the Middle East. Scenes from the convention, which took place this past weekend, can be found in an accompanying video, which also includes an interview with organizer Orne Gil, a woman tattooer talking about "introduc[ing] tattoo art into the Middle East and especially in Cairo at a higher level." [Yeah, you know I loved this.] There's also some discussion on stereotypes about tattoos being for "criminals and homosexuals." A quick but interesting look.
The growing popularity of tattoos in Afghanistan was another favorite news item this weekend. Agence France-Presse reports that, while tattoos are banned in the country, young Afghan men are going underground seeking tattoos, "thanks to the influence of international music stars, sports heroes and American soldiers, who often display elaborate body art." Here's more from that article:
'It is illegal to have a tattoo shop. I do it in secret - if the government finds out, they might come and arrest me,' underground tattoo artist Reza Yousifi, 19, told Agence France-Presse. Mr Yousifi, who has an X-Men tattoo on his arm, developed a passion for body ink while living in Iran as a refugee and later became a skilled artist himself. He uses his friend's male beauty salon as a cover, and keeps his tools hidden at home, taking them out only when he has a client. After 2001, some tattoo parlours set up shop in Kabul, openly advertising their business as Afghans hungrily adopted outside fashions and customs. Religious leaders complained, and the government shut down the parlours, but the craze did not fade. Tattoos are popular among Kabul's bodybuilders - another activity that has boomed since the United States-led invasion that ousted the Taleban.Read more here.
The tattoos of 24 American veterans, most of whom served in Iraq and Afghanistan, are explored in the multimedia exhibit War Ink, (as I posted last month),and it's a very powerful discussion of their war experiences as told through what they have chosen to represent on their bodies. The Richmond Confidential just published an interview with the creators of the project, Jason Deitch, a former Army medic and military sociologist, and Chris Brown, the senior manager at the Contra Costa County Library in California. If you haven't checked out War Ink, I highly recommend you do so.
On the pop culture tip, the NY Times this weekend ran "Dr. Woo, the Tattoo Artist for the Hollywood Set," a feature on Brian "Dr." Woo of Shamrock Social Club. Keeping up with the rep for excellence and cool at Shamrock, Woo -- who was apprenticed by Mark Mahoney -- has garnered an incredible amount of attention via Instagram, as highlighted by this article. Naturally, in the Fashion & Style section of the Times, there is talk of celebrity, but with some interesting quotes like this one:
He isn't fazed by celebrity (famous clients, he pointed out, sit in the same chair atop the same linoleum floor as everyone else), though he's able to gauge star power based on a certain type of pre-inking angst.Finally, my most favorite news story is on heavily tattooed 81-yr-old Helen Lambin. I posted a photo of her this weekend on my personal Instagram feed, and she garnered lots of love for her look; check the video (below) for some wit and wisdom as well. And when people ask you what you're going to look like with all your tattoos when you're older, send them the links to this badass woman.
Tattoo legend Mark Mahoney is cooler than any of the many rock stars he tattoos. His style & demeanor translate into the buttery smooth black and gray work that has made his Shamrock Social Club studio in Hollywood a destination for serious collectors as well as starlets.
Focusing on the celebrity side of his clientele, the Los Angeles Times profiled Mahoney and naturally named dropped the "who's who" of who he's tattooed, but it's an interesting read overall with discussion on his start in the business, coming out of rehab and back into tattooing, and why he's devoted much of his time to black and gray fine line work.
Here's a bit from the article:
Success was a long time in coming for the soft-spoken, gray-haired Boston native. Introduced to the art of tattooing as a teenager, Mahoney spent years studying the work of artists in Rhode Island and New York, trying to learn their secrets.Read more here.
Finally recovering from the four-day debauchery that was the Biggest Tattoo Show on Earth in Las Vegas, which began last Thursday night and ended sometime around Monday morning. Like everything Vegas, it was glitzy, over the top, and a helluvalotta fun.
See my usual bad pics of the show here.
The minute I got to Vegas I saw an ad on top of a taxi cab for the convention. It was also heavily promoted in the media, with convention organizer (and tattoo mogul) Mario Barth hiring a PR firm to bring in a crowd. In the Mandalay Bay Hotel, which housed the show in one of its massive convention halls, there were people handing out wrist bands in the casino for reduced admission -- do well at roulette and treat yourself to a tattoo.
Despite the tireless promotion, however, a number of artists and vendors said that there were less people in attendance than last year. [This was my first time there.] But it all depended on who you asked. The experiences of those working the show widely varied. Some said they were completely booked. Others were trying to hustle for business. And then I spoke to a number of artists who were happy to do a few tattoos and mostly hang out and have fun, like a tattoo vacation with some extra dollars to pay for the trip.
Knuckle tattoos by the legendary Mark Mahoney
Vegas has it's velvet ropes and A-listers and this convention was no exception. As I mentioned last week, I was super-stoked to see legendary artists like Horitoshi, the Sulu'ape family, and Americana's bad boys Stanley Moskowitz and Crazy Philadelphia Eddie. [I bought Eddie's new book "Tattooing: The Life and Times of Crazy Philadelphia Eddie, My Vida Loca, Vol 1" and will review it here soon.] Portrait prodigies Mike De Masi, Mike Devries, Nikko Hurtado were in attendance, and I also got to meet some Greek homies doing a wild fusion of abstract art and realism from Sake Tattoo in Athens, Tattooligans in Thessaloniki, & Fabz Tattoo Gold Coast Tattooligans. Baba & BJ Betts schooled young artists on lettering while Jime Litwalk and Tony Ciavarro worked their New School. Black & Gray maestros Shamrock Social Club, Bob Tyrrell, Tony Olivas, Andy Engel, Robert Pho, (among many other greats) dominated the tattoo competitions.
The competitions were MC'd by the rock/TV/porn star Evan Seinfeld, who was his usual brand of delishiousness. I was also hoping to ogle the cast of Sons of Anarchy (the one reason I own a TV these days) but it seemed the only thing going on in their large booth was airbrushing the show's new logo onto tees and tank tops.
The only other "celebrity" I spotted was skater/Jackass Bam Margera at the after party, which took place Friday and Saturday at King Ink, Mario's tattoo studio-boutique-dance club complete with velvet rope and a line of tattooed Snookies waiting to get in. Oh, and there were TONS of cougars hitting on young punks with stretched earlobes and neck tattoos. I had one 50+ woman come up and ask me what was best way to take one of these guys home. [Answer: Jack Daniels. Lots of it.] As for me, I stayed sober just to take in the scene. It was surreal.
Back piece by Louie of Under the Gun Tattoo
Overall, it was a convention for the masses. Serious collectors were there but it was far from an insider art snob show or hippie gathering. The airbrush artists, faux-tattoo sleeves vendor, and even the psychic readings kept spectators on a blackjack break busy. There was no mystique but it was accessible to all. It was Vegas.
Biggest Tattoo Show on Earth
Mike De Masi
Shamrock Social Club
Sons of Anarchy