Daily Hampshire Gazette, Northampton, MA, 6/7/07
Interview by Kathleen Mellon
1. What made you decide to become a tattoo artist?
As I matured in my teens, and became exceedingly rebellious and interested in all things counter-cultural and antagonistic to the 'norm', I became more and more aware of tattoos as an art form. They were an intriguing mode of self-expression because they were potentially subversive to all the social and cultural forces I felt were trying to control me. I also saw tattoo artists being able to support themselves doing something creative as a career, and largely on their own terms. So for those reasons, I figured it was another artistic medium that I should eventually try.
2. What sort of training did it require?
I served a formal apprenticeship at a local tattoo shop, learning under the guidance and direction of a 20-year industry veteran. This lasted about 6-9 months.
3. Is that satisfying from an artistic perspective?
Yes and no. It’s very satisfying to be acquiring lots of knowledge and see your skills slowly expand and develop, but it’s unsatisfying in the sense that it takes a lot of patience, discipline, and dues-paying in order to eventually be doing the artwork you wanted to do with the medium all along. There’s a high learning curve with tattooing.
4. Does your other art inform your tattoo art and vice versa?
Yes, very much so. Ideas and experiments in one medium lead to the same in another medium; there are many concepts and techniques that are adaptable and interchangeable between tattooing and painting.
5. Why do you think your tattoo art has brought you such acclaim?
Firstly, it’s because of the high level that I have fortunately been able to do it at. One of the greatest things about the tattoo industry is that it’s still small and accepting enough, that if you can manage to tattoo very well, or bring a high level of artistry into your work, you will undoubtedly be noticed and rewarded for it. Secondly, tattoos and the various subcultures tattoo art is a part of are very trendy and marketable nowadays, which draws lots of interest to tattoo artists from all types of people and media outlets. And again, if you can do it well, that interest will only increase.
6. Do you hope to find equal acclaim in the fine art world?
Recognition or acclaim is not my primary goal, with any of my artwork—it is only a goal in the sense of being a means, and not an end. The ideas, the inspiration, and the messages being known and understood by people—having some kind of positive impact through the art—is the overall goal. Achieving acclaim will help ensure that this happens, and it will help ensure that I’m able to support myself with my art and live the type of life that I choose. Only in that sense do I hope for it.
7. Your exhibit juxtaposes photos and oil paintings of "similar subject
matter," according to your press release. Can you describe some of those
The paintings and photos are all based around images of broken skin, seen up close and greatly magnified so as to form almost surreal, fleshy landscapes. The paintings contain fragmented views of a faceted gemstone or diamond, and the photographs also contain a variation on this theme. In this way they compliment each other, but the 10 paintings actually form one large single image when arranged in a certain formation, whereas the 5 photos simply stand by themselves.
8. The press release talks about your art portraying a "dark outlook" as
well as "symbols of emerging beauty and ragged hope." And evokes "often
shocking and grim questions." Can you tell me a bit more about that; what
are the questions that you are asking with your art?
The dark outlook mentioned is based wholly in the reality of our current human condition: humans perpetrating the wholesale killing of other humans, animals, and much of the natural world. Capitalist and corporate greed are promoting a toxic and unsustainable way of life, which is causing us to consume all remaining resources, exploit vast numbers of people, and do irreparable damage to the earth. Nations and the world’s major religions are in an increasingly violent power struggle, now manifested in an open-ended, global war of/on terror. This isn’t all that’s happening though, there are and always have been bright spots of cooperation, compassion, mutual aid, respect and love scattered amongst all of the fighting and killing and general discord. Whether on a community level, or within individual lives, the examples are there, and we can look to them for hope, and take part in them. So my art is inspired and informed by all of this. It’s asking the questions of why is all this happening? And how? What does it all mean and where are we going? What are we going to do about it? And is your version of reality neat and tidy enough to give you peace of mind amidst all this horror?
9. And yet, you apparently also offer solutions and answers; can you
elaborate on that? Do you find those answers in the publications you plan to
give out for free at your exhibit? Can you name a few of those for me? Have
they been inspirational for you? Do you find solutions elsewhere? If so,
I do feel that there are solutions and answers, but my art in and of itself does not usually offer them, overtly—I tend to offer them in other ways, for example, by having lots of free reading material available at my gallery reception, or on my website. More voluntary or optional ways like that—I can’t impose my answers on anyone else or be coercive, because that is exactly the root of the problems my art often addresses. The material available at my show will naturally be stuff that I have found inspirational, that has shaped my art and my outlook on things or led me to finding some good answers and courses of action for myself. But it’s not comprehensive or exclusive by any means, nor is this exhibit meant to be an infomercial for one way of thinking or one particular activist group that produces literature. Certain things that will be available for free are the books “Days of War, Nights of Love” and “Recipes For Disaster” published by the CrimethInc. Collective (www.crimethinc.com), among others. One place I have found great solutions which will not be represented at this exhibit is in the writings of William Glasser, who pioneered the concept of “Choice Theory” and wrote a highly influential book by the same name, which is widely available and fairly mainstream compared to the anarchist-leaning literature I’ll have at my exhibit.
10. With regard to this exhibit, whom do you see as your audience?
Anyone with an open mind, or anyone who appreciates a realist style of painting.
11. How did you end up with an exhibit in Easthampton?
I’ve been good friends with Gabe Ripley, the owner of Off The map Tattoo, for several years now, and he offered to host a show of my artwork. He shares some of the same beliefs that tend to inspire my art, and thought that other people around the area might also.