Last night, the much-anticipated "Tattoo Nation," a documentary on the history and evolution of black & grey tattooing, premiered in Los Angeles, complete with a red carpet laid out for tattooing's own A List, including Don Ed Hardy, Jack Rudy, Freddy Negrete, Good Time Charlie Cartwright, Tim Hendricks, and Cory Miller (who narrated the film), among many others.
Danny Trejo was also in attendance, as his own experience getting needled in prison plays heavily into the narrative of the film. There's even footage of him taking his daughter to get tattooed (in a studio, not a cell).
Check the Tattoo Nation Facebook page for photos from last night.
As noted in my last post on the film, the nationwide release is next Thursday, April 4th. In some cities, like LA and Modesto, the film will play for a week, but in most others, it is an initial two-day limited engagement. There are over a hundred cities and locations for the screening, which are largely listed on www.Dandeentertainment.com.
** For those in NYC, I'll be hosting one of the Manhattan premiers: The April 4th showing at AMC Empire 25 at 234 West 42nd St. in Times Square at 8pm. I'll be handing out N+S stickers and buttons and also selling copies of my Black & Grey Tattoo box set in the lobby. The screening may sell out, so it's best to buy your tickets in advance. **
I've given this film a thumbs up already, but it's also been given shout-outs from outlets like the Hollywood Reporter, LA Weekly and a mention in Variety. And as a number of reviews have noted, this isn't just a movie for tattoo collectors, but anyone interested in art, culture, or just a shirtless Trejo. Director Eric Schwartz may not have any tattoos, but he really does our community justice, reflecting the true reality of tattoo culture.
While black & grey is the central theme, the film examines tattooing in contemporary US history overall. It's strength lies in the oral histories of those who created history, like Hardy, Rudy, Cartwright, Negrete, Mark Mahoney, Shanghai Kate Hellenbrand and the other greats featured. Check the preview below to get a taste, but I highly recommend you going out to see it.
And for those in New York, I hope you'll see it with me on Thursday.
Many thanks to all who sent me the link to this article, which was front page news in the Wall Street Journal: "Tattoo Checks Trip Up Visas."
At issue here is concern over granting green cards or permanent citizenship to members of foreign gangs. The applications are denied on national-security grounds, but even those who do not have a criminal record could be flagged on the basis of gang-related tattoos. Here's more from the article:
The presence of tattoos isn't enough to deny an application, according to a spokeswoman for the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs. She said "more attention has been paid to tattoos as indicators of a gang affiliation during the visa process" as law enforcement has better understood the relationship between "certain tattoos" and gangs. The department doesn't comment on individual cases, she said.But what's a gang tattoo?
The article discusses the plight of two Mexican-born applicants for US residency, Hector Villalobos and Rolando Mora Huerta. Both were denied visas because of their tattoos. The article particularly cites the popular "Smile/Laugh Now, Cry Later" design, which US officials believe to be gang related. While the origins of the motif in Latino art are arguably rooted in prison culture, the symbol has come to mean more than criminality.
As I wrote in the introduction to Edgar Hoill's Latino Art Collection, the ethos behind the Payaso (or Payasa) centers on the belief that one cannot show weakness but should appear strong and happy in the face of adversity and later deal with troubles when alone. It is also said that the motif reflects the ideal of living life fully in the moment without regard to consequences and suffering them afterward. Some even believe that music may be behind the imagery, noting songs like "Smile now, cry later" by Sonny Ozuna.
You don't have to be a criminal to wear this tattoo. Indeed, both men deny any criminal affiliation.
Particularly in black & grey tattoo culture, some of the artwork may find its roots in gangs and prisons, but as a gang expert cited in the article states, a number of these tattoos have become part of "popular culture at large" over the last ten years.
US officials should not decide critical immigration decisions based on how they interpret tattoos and nothing more. What about swastika tattoos? Will all those "gentle swastika" proponents be barred from residency for being in a Neo-Nazi gang?
Perhaps it will take a lawsuit to clear up this issue.
I want to thank all the very beautiful people who came out Saturday night to party with us at Tattoo Culture for the NYC release of Black & Grey Tattoo: From Street Art to Fine Art, my latest tome co-authored with the excellent Edgar Hoill, who also shot many of the images in the book including the one above.
Alas, we were so busy drinking, eating, and dancing Saturday, that we didn't take many party pix. [If you took some, send 'em my way please.] Here are a couple below and more to be found on our Black & Grey book Flickr set.
UPDATE: the fabulous Jeff Rojas took some wonderful photos from the party and posted them in a Flickr set here.
** I still have a few author copies left at a reduced rate. Contact me at marisa @ needlesandsins dotcom for details. **
More on the book here.
Me (on the right) making faces with writer Jenni Miller (center) and Naima Mora, musician and America's Next Top Model winner.
All these people rock.
I don't think I have one photo with Tim Kern that doesn't have us throwing up devil horns. Photo courtesy of the beautiful Hang Tran--soon to be Mrs. Kern (not pictured here).
And speaking of Tim Kern, I'll leave you with one of his many works highlighted in the book.
I'm a huge fan of tattoo artist Goethe Silva, and so I'm excited that he's back in NYC doing a guest spot at Paul Booth's Last Rites Theater from October 23-31st. [Goethe, Paul and the Last Rites crew are all in our Black & Grey Tattoo book.]
Mexican-born Goethe pays tribute to his pre-hispanic roots and its dieties, rituals and sacrifices with his signature tattoo style. His dark expressions make him a perfect fit for Last Rites...and Halloween! See more of his work here.
Also check this clip below from Marked, where Goethe explains the inspiration behind his work, and the story behind his own tattoos.
Goethe along with other artists from Black & Grey Tattoo will be partying at our book release soiree, October 23rd (from 7-10pm) at Tattoo Culture in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Would love for you to join us. More on the party coming soon.