Multidisciplinary artist duo Jade Tomlinson and Kevin James, also known as Expanded Eye, have been spreading love around London with their installations and street art -- and according to Culture 24, they've also been putting their distinct visual storytelling on skin, spending 6 months with abstract tattoo maestro Loic Lavenue, aka Xoil of Needles' Side, in Thonon-les-Bains, France.
The duo's approach to tattoos are particularly engaging and also well constructed. On Expanded Eye's Facebook Page, they offer more on their approach:
Each and every unique tattoo we create is our visual interpretation of concepts and stories provided by the client which hold significant meaning to the individual. We encompass as much personal detail possible whilst allowing each design to evolve organically into a contemporary piece of art, which is then transferred from paper to skin.Expanded Eye is now taking bookings for November through June 2014 when they are back at Needles' Side. Hit them up with your concept & placement ideas to email@example.com.
If you're in London from October 25-29, check their exhibition of new works entitled A Thousand Fibres, showing at Arch 402 Gallery, Hoxton. Read the exhibition statement for more on the show.
ESPN Magazine has released a preview of their fifth annual The Body Issue, which lands on newsstands this Friday, July 12th. And women and men around the world shall weep and rejoice in viewing tattoos on finely sculpted bodies -- bodies that are works of art in themselves even if the tattoos are not.
The tattooed athletes featured in this issue include football stars Colin Kaepernick (shown above) and Vernon Davis; basketball player John Wall; Sydney Leroux of the US national women's soccer team; and golfer Carly Booth.
In fact, The Body Issue pays particular homage to Colin Kaepernick's extensive tattoo work in the stunning images as well as in this video shown below. Colin also discusses his tattoos in this ESPN interview, in which he answers the question, "Why are your tattoos so important to you?":
It's what I believe in. They're part of me. They relate to my faith or things that shaped who I am. My favorite right now is "My gift is my curse," written on the inside of my arm. That's applicable right now. There are great things I can do in this position, great opportunities, but there are also things I have to sacrifice. For instance, time with my family. And privacy, being able to go to the grocery store or mall and just hang out -- that's not something I can do. It's unbelievable how different it is right now compared to last year. A lot of camera phones, a lot of pictures, a lot of signatures.The controversy Colin is talking about stems from this ridiculous column, which was a cliched diatribe against tattooed NFL players, particularly Colin. But the 49ers quarterback got the last laugh because, according the Bleacher Report, the controversy was "precisely why it made so much sense for ESPN The Magazine to turn to Kaepernick for the Body Issue--not only because of his magnetism as a player but also for his unabashed advocacy for tattoo art."
So, while some may not love all of his artwork, Colin is an thlete who appears to truly love tattooing, and it's great seeing that conveyed on the pages of The Body Issue, beyond the naked pics. [Ok, the quasi-NSFW pics are a great draw.]
We spend a lot of time here at the Needles and Sins Compound discussing the application of tattoos but, every now and again, the issue of removal comes up. More often than not, any discussions of removal are about making way for a larger piece or eliminating a youthful "mistake," but I recently watched the documentary "Erasing Hate" and another facet was revealed: what happens when your tattoos no longer represent your personal ideology, much less your ability to function in society?
The documentary profiles Bryon Widner who joined the racist skinhead movement in the American mid-west as a teenager and it wasn't long before he had adorned his face with the violent markings of a violent ethos and lifestyle. But as he grew older... he grew up - recanting both his bigotry and beliefs. The one problem? Well, it's kind of hard to re-enter a culture of equal rights when your face is covered in images of racism.
In an interesting turn, he reached out to the Southern Poverty Law Center for help - an organization known for battling and monitoring hate-groups. They not only located a plastic surgeon who agreed to do the removal, but they also provided $35,000 for the grueling two-year procedure through an anonymous donor. The documentary follows Bryon and his family over the course of his journey and it's definitely worth a watch (especially if, like me, you hate neo-Nazis).
"Erasing Hate" is available on Netflix streaming, or for $1.99 on Amazon instant video.
Tattoos on hot athletic bodies. You're welcome.
** UPDATE: Click this YouTube link if you have trouble viewing.**
This is getting me pumped for the Olympic games in London, July 27 to August 12. There are a bunch of cool videos, beyond body art, on the NBCOlympics.com site and they'll be streaming the Trials and Games as well. So, we can cheer on our favorite athletes from our desks without having to flex a muscle.
Go Team Tattooed!
The radio station WNYC -- which I stream online here -- is on almost all the time in our place, if only so I can feel like I'm getting smarter. Well, I just learned that I have a chance to actually get smarter about something I particularly love: the history of tattoos and body decoration as discussed by the ultra-awesome tattoo anthropoligist Lars Krutak, who has been featured here before.
Lars will be on in a half-hour on The Leonard Lopate Show, along with tattooist Scott Campbell, who will be talking about the mechanics, art and removal of contemporary tattoos.
Listen to it live or catch it in the archives after it airs.
As I get into a car with two lawyers to see a play in Philadelphia about the effects of the Holocaust in Poland (yes, this is actually my life and, no, it's not nearly as interesting as it sounds), I would be loath to miss posting about this spectacular nerd-boner. While I've long given up comic collecting for a more permanent hobby that doesn't require acid-free backing boards or plastic jackets, this is a great post for a man who lit a candle the day that John Buscema died.
Thanks to Nick Schonberger for pointing out the Complex History of Tattooed Comic Book Characters.
Admittedly, it's been over a decade since I let my subscription to Esquire lapse (the rising popularity of "lad-mags" in the late 90s seemingly generated a shift and subsequent downward spiral in the respectability of Esquire's content). But it came to my attention through the twitterverse that style-maven and tattoo-aficionado Nick Wooster was talking about tattoos on their website.
With advice like:
What will they look like at 80? You can't think about it. Look, if I'm still standing at 80, that in and of itself will be a miracle. However I look will be just fine.
I love the idea of being covered-up in a suit and nobody can tell. That's a conscious choice you have to make, though. I really like neck tattoos and hand tattoos. They're just not for me.
It's definitely an enjoyable (and, for my money, entirely accurate) read. Click through to read the entire article.
[Source: Robby and Bobby]
Like David Hasselfhoff and unpasteurized cheese,
tattoos are big in Germany, and this weekend, I got a large dose of all (a
little less Hoff than cheddar but one in the
same). The 18th Annual Frankfurt Tattoo Convention -- yes, the
convention was older than some of the attendees -- kicked off this past
Friday in its usual spot: The Messe Frankfurt, a massive
modern expo hall in the center of this commercial city.
It wasn't my first Frankfurt tattoo foray. It was about seven or eight years ago when I last attended and, other than a shorter artist list and more vendors, much hadn't changed. There are certain elements that give this gathering its own specialness, which I will list for you but first...
Ok, key points on the show:
Wing tattoos by Vincent Hocquet (featured in Black Tattoo Art).
Last Friday, the US Air Force rescinded a new ban on tattoos visible on a recruit's right "saluting arm." The ban had come into effect November 25th and met with a great deal of scrutiny in the press as 26 recruits were soon turned away from basic training because of their tattoos, tattoos that were acceptable under the original standard.
According to the Air Force Times, that old standard is the following: "Official Air Force policy bans only tattoos that are obscene or do not fit a 'military image,' that cover more than one-fourth of a body part, or are above the collarbone."
This Air Force policy has renewed interest in the debate over tattoo policies -- not just in the military -- but in the workplace. I wrote a great deal about it for Needled.com but those posts did not survive its demise so I'll break down some big issues for ya here.
The first time I wrote about discrimination and body art was for BMEzine in 2004 called "Employment Discrimination: Be Careful What You Sue For" [yes, my bio info for the article has surely changed!] Since that article, there have been new developments, but start there for a more detailed primer on federal job discrimination laws.
Here are some basic points on tattoos and workplace appearance policies:
Companies have a great deal of discretion in enforcing their workplace appearance policies as long as they don't discriminate on the basis of religion, sex, race, color, or national origin under Title VII of the US Civil Rights Act.
Even if you claim your tattoos are protected for reasons such as religion or national origin, that doesn't mean you can wear a swastika on your neck and serve customers with abandon. Courts will often look to see if an employer offered you "reasonable accommodation" -- that is, whether they found a way to eliminate the conflict between your tattoo and their work requirements without undue hardship to the business.
Perfect example is in Cloutier v Costco [mentioned in my 2004 article but had not yet been decided]. In this case, a cashier at the mega-wholesale chain sued because she was not allowed to have visible facial piercings. She claimed that her eyebrow piercing was part of her religion as a member of the "Church of Body Modification" (CoBM). After a lengthy court battle, the US Court of Appeals in Boston did not rule on whether CoBM is a bona fide religion but found that Costco met its burden of showing that it had offered Cloutier a reasonable accommodation of her religious practice: a clear plastic retainer that took the place of the eyebrow jewelry. Therefore, no conflict.
When an employee has been outright fired for visible religious tattoos and offered no accommodation, it has not gone so well. The Red Robin restaurant chain paid out $150,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission when it dismissed a waiter for not covering up a verse from an Egyptian scripture tattooed on his wrists, a noted practice of his Kermetic faith. As part of the settlement, Red Robin also had to change its policies to accommodate religious beliefs.
Workplace dress codes should be clear and reasonable, but again, employers can often mandate cover-ups or not hire someone because they are tattooed. Granted, in the US where over a third of the population is tattooed, it doesn't make much business sense to keep a large portion of the work pool away, but companies are allowed to make bad decisions and get away with them. Hell, if they can plunge nations into mass recessions, they can certainly tell you to hide your tattoos (most of the time).
But also think of the flip side: Should businesses like tattoo studios or punk clubs be forced to hire chino-wearing preppies without an ounce of ink? Shouldn't businesses who cater to a certain group be able to freely create an image to attract that group (if they do so within the law)?
Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section.
Director Lech Kowalski has apparently packaged up some interview footage from his original documentary, "Hey, Is Dee Dee Home," to give us a slightly-new DVD entitled, "History On My Arms." It not only features extended uncut footage of bassist Dee Dee Ramone rambling on in his nasal insanity and goofing around on a guitar - but apparently Dee Dee walks the camera crew through the story of each of his tattoos (tattoos which reportedly got him into a heap of trouble with the notoriously conservative and militant band-leader, Johnny Ramone).
Something tells me he doesn't have any Kat Von D memorial pieces of his pomeranian and his narrative runs more along the rails of, "Johnny Thunders and I gave these to each other on a four-day smack bender... So, ya know... That's cool."
And while I will admit that I haven't seen it yet (and would gladly accept a free copy sent to the Needles and Sins compound for a proper review *ahem*), that lone one-star review on Amazon is a little disconcerting:
"...there is one reedeming part where Dee Dee stops playing and goes into the kitchen to cook some eggs and you here him banging around the kitchen while he begins a conversation with his cat!"
But if you've ever seen interviews with the D-Man, you know that he might as well be talking to cat - and that's just what makes him so lovable. Hell, even my mom loves the Ramones, and if you love the Ramones, you just gotta love Dee Dee, nonsensical giggling and all.
Bravo TV is also using tattoos to promote Top Chef: Las Vegas. With the 57-photo slideshow of contestant ink -- ranging from the delish to the unsavory -- you can pick your own winner. My fave, Ashley Merriman above with some top tattoo work.
The Needles and Sins mantra of "keep your low-brow coverage held high" has been drilled into my earhole enough times that I think I've started chanting it in my sleep. It also would explain the pangs of guilt I experienced when I somehow found myself not only looking at cracked.com, but actually laughing at it, to boot.
And while I was ready to see the run-of-the-mill "tattoos are for idiots" sentiment on their tattoo topic page, I mustered quite a few giggles at their "insights," especially this butcher's-chart for the tattooed human form.
[photo courtesy of Cracked.com]
After all, can I make judgements about a website that sounds just as misanthropic as my general view of humanity? Case in point:
Tattoos theoretically could be thoughtful additions to your appearance. Unfortunately there are thousands of tattoo parlors (many open 24 hours) and people just don't have that many thoughts. So most [tattoos] are stupid.
Some people love their stupid tattoos, in fact some people claim that everyone should have at least one. I can't argue with that sentiment, but I would like to point out that for a lot of people, its often its the first and final tattoo.
Cracked's stance on band logo tattoos ("I have no independent personality or understanding of the passage of time"), revolves around something which I've milled over and mulched in my brain for far longer than I probably should have.
While it's a pretty safe bet that your affinity for the bands you loved during puberty will never wane (in my case, groups like Pixies, Sonic Youth, Operation Ivy), I can safely assert that I don't personally need to immortalize that lifelong allegiance with a dermal decoration. Secondly, it's also almost entirely a safe bet that the band you love RIGHT NOW will either break-up or, worse, totally shift stylistic directions leaving you pining for their "first few albums" and a laser removal center.
Or in the words of the guys at C-Rap.com and their funny (if hastily penned) piece on tattoos in the hardcore community
I know that Slipknot piece must've looked fresh when you were going sick in the pit for them at Ozzfest, but one day they will inevitably put out a record you'll be describing as a sellout, and you'll be looking to burn that shit off with a hot hanger.
And speaking of "burning," I've loved Clutch since I first saw that Lay-Z-Boys vs. Monster-Trucks video way back when on Headbanger's Ball. I also loved the Burning Beard video. And hot diggity dagnabbit, Sean Young did a mean portrait inspired by it (pictured left).
But in the words of Ryan Dowd, the (tattooed) die-hard Clutch fan from Dogs of Winter, "I love the man, but I really don't think I need Neil Fallon's face on me."
Words made all the more prescient considering that the latest offering from Clutch, Strange Cousins From The West is good... it's just not, um... great.
Even Rob Zombie (no stranger to ink, himself) told Inked Magazine: "I have seen hundreds and hundreds of tattoos of my face on people. Sometimes that is actually quite shocking - how large they are. I'm like, 'Really? You want someone else's face that's actually larger than your own face on your body?' But it is what it is, I guess. It's flattering, but it's pretty extreme."
Listen to Mr. Zombie, kids. He knows what's good for you.
I'm back from my 2-week big fat Greek wedding celebration of my best friend's nuptials (photos on my Facebook page) but it was more than just eating, drinking, dancing, eating, eating, eating ... it was also about
Specifically, I'm reporting back to y'all on some amazing work coming outta my motherland.
But before I give a list of my fave Greek tattooists, I should note that despite the Zorba-esque zestiness, jump-on-the-table-and-belly-dance desires of my peeps, it is NOT a country friendly to heavily tattooed people, especially women. In fact, it's pretty hostile, and I'm not just talking about the smaller villages but even in the big cities like Athens.
For example, in one day, I was stopped and cursed at by three different people for exercising my right to bare tattooed arms -- people who worked in tourist stores and could've taken my euros for things like erotic coasters depicting the ancients in various states of coitus.
One woman spit on the floor when she saw me, claiming I was a Satan worshipper. [Indeed, I would not deem Beyonce satan by any means!]
Of course, when I hung out with the satanists at the Rockwave Festival Tuesday, my tattoos were almost as big a hit as Mastodon, Kylesa and Lita Ford, so maybe there's something to it.
My point in writing all this is that -- while Greece remains one of the most beautiful places on earth to me, a place I go back to every year -- one must be prepared to suffer the evil eye of tattoo distaste despite the country's recent tattoo conventions and incredible local tattooists.
And speaking of, here's my pick of faves should you wish a souvenir from Greece other than the Athena is My Homegirl tee.
* Mike The Athens: Mike (whose work is shown here) is one of my favorite artists worldwide, even beyond Greece's borders, particularly for his Buddhist and East Asian iconography (in fact, you'll find his tattoo and fine art work in my upcoming book on blackwork). Mike takes a spiritual approach to tattooing and is part of MAHASHAKTI, a non-profit organization whose goal is to "preserve, promote and secure spiritual tattooing in our times."
* Sake Tattoo: For the less traditional, there's Sake, who is excellent for portraiture and new school stylings; work coming out of the shop also includes the Art Brut style popularized in France and Belgium (some work comes a bit close for comfort with artists like Yann and Jeff but I haven't seen any that warrant copyright suits).
* Greek Tattoo/Hellenic Stixis: Specializes in tattoos of Hellenic motifs -- akin to much of what I wear on my arms. Research in archaeology and ancient Greek arts inform the designs of the work done here, and so if you're looking to be adorned like a Greek vase, this is the place to go.
* Tattooligans: When traveling through northern Greece, in the great city of Thessaloniki (Salonika), head to Tattooligans for color realism, some of the best coming outta the country.
* Nico Tattoo Crew: The tattoo studios of Nico Tattoo -- found in Athens, Thessaloniki and Alexandroupoli -- have a lot of artists working there, some excellent and some still learning, but when I passed by the Athens shop, I had the freedom to browse all the portfolios at leisure and everyone was super friendly. Nico himself has been around awhile and is known as a top Greek artist, but I was also really diggin the work of Kostas at the Athens shop for Japanese and Eastern iconography.
* Jimmy's: Jimmy's is the oldest tattoo shop in Greece and I remember there was a time over a decade ago that it was the only shop I'd ever hear of when I asked people in Athens about their tattoos. To learn more about Jimmy's, read this fabulous article by Lars Krutak for the Vanishing Tattoo.
This isn't an exhaustive list of course, and there are many great Greek tattoo artists creating beautiful works of art throughout the country.
I was looking to download new photo apps for my iPhone yesterday and there was this tattooed baby staring me down, taunting me like a tattooed Barbie doll. So, like I did with Babs, I bought it. I will fork over $1.99 for you, dear reader, so you don't have to should the app suck. The problem is that I'm totally on the fence as to the suckage of this app, so let me list the pros and cons and you can decide.
First, Sonic Boom created the Tattoo Shop app for all phones supported by AT&T, Alltel, Sprint, and Verizon. This is a plus in itself. My review, however, is based on how it worked on my iPhone. Here goes:
For almost two bucks, it's not bad for tons of ironic fun. You decide.
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.
Only one caveat, my friends: when attending tattoo conventions, Drink in Moderation.
This supe-cute woman, who called herself "Trouble," found herself enjoying Saturday night of the convention too much and woke up with the words "Slut" and "Hoe" on her shoulder blades. She spent the next day planning her cover up.
I enjoyed the show just enough and came home without a new Scarlet letter, but with greater reverence for the more lowbrow badassness fiercely in attendance. Conventions are still heavy on the bikers, babes, and booze, and ya know, that does make for a fun Sunday afternoon.
Can I get an Amen?
And by ink, I mean verbiage not tatouage.
Since 2005, I've been writing about my passion for tattoos near daily for Needled.com.
Today marks the last day of blogging for Needled ... And the first day on Needles and Sins, a site that talks tattoos and other fine art, plus music, shopping, book reviews, events, and so much more. .
Think of it as Needled Amped with more topics, more features and more kink.
This little blog will transform into a platform for other writers, podcasts, video blogs and maybe even a community where y'all can get involved. Big plans abound!
Highbrow for the underground -- and lowdown on the lowbrow. Something for everybody.
I welcome your ideas and thoughts for this new blogging adventure. Thank you so much for your support.
I smooch you!