Skin Art #117, October 2007
1. Tell me about your message on your website. There's some stuff about war, the true nature of patriotism, your thoughts on anarchy...what is your overarching message?
My overarching message is to seek out answers, get educated, realize what’s going on in the world and try to make it a great place for all; to live your life to the fullest and wherever possible, for the greater good. What I have on my website may be things that have influenced or helped me, but I don’t feel they’re the only solutions out there. Sometimes we need to deconstruct and critique what’s happening, resist oppression, destroy what’s harmful in order to build anew. Other times we need to focus on being positive, on nurturing and expanding what’s already good and helpful and compassionate. I guess I’m trying to put it all out there, the whole spectrum; “create/destroy” is the title of my artist statement. Although quite frankly I need to include more of the positive, happy side of things on my website and in my work. That’s always been a struggle of mine in general and I’m sure my work or my website reflects it, but there are a lot of positive motivations to everything I do, even if superficially it looks dark or disturbing.
2. What is the relationship between your artwork and your political/philosophical stance?
In some cases, that relationship is direct cause and effect, other times it’s subtle or nearly nonexistent. Specifically with tattoos, not every one of them has a deeper philosophical or political meaning for the client, so sometimes the relationship between my art and my views is nonexistent. And even sometimes with my personal artwork, I wont have any deeper meaning in mind; sometimes I paint or photograph things because they are visually pleasing to me. Even though in hindsight, one could go back and attribute meaning to things; often I can remember what I was feeling or thinking and realize symbols and themes I wasn’t even aware of at the time.
My overall philosophical stance of how I live my life, the projects I choose to take on, the way I conduct myself, those kinds of broader attributes are behind everything I do. So in a sense even the art I make that’s not directly related to any of my views is still done within the influence of those views, since they shape my perception of reality.
3. There are a few tattoo artists who seem to be becoming more and more involved in political/social movements. What do you think the role of the tattoo artist should be in these movements? Is there anything special that tattoo artists can contribute as outsiders, even in the art world, to social ideals?
I can’t say what anyone else’s role should or shouldn’t be, that’s up to the individual, but obviously I think it’s great the more involved people are. It helps their own life and whatever cause they’re helping with, not to mention it lends credibility to the tattoo profession in general and helps combat the stereotypes some may still have that all of us are lowlife scumbags. As for me, I try to have at least a tiny role in the movements or causes I care about, even if it’s as indirect as spreading the word about them or just donating money. And quite honestly, I need to make more of an effort in that regard. Because in order to tattoo at a high level I have sacrificed other things in my life, like closer involvement in a lot of activist type efforts and other communities. And then once you’re tattooing at a high level, it commands more and more of your time and energy, as requests and opportunities pour in from more people. It’s a cycle that keeps on going, and I’m trying to find the peace of mind or the confidence to be able to graciously turn people down and not feel so guilty when I can’t please everyone all the time. I’d like to keep my workload smaller, so I can put more time and energy into other things I believe in, since that helps me stay inspired.
As for tattoo artists being “outsiders,” I wonder if that label even applies anymore? We’re currently being embraced by the mass media spectacle in the form of TV shows and all sorts of other opportunities. We’re breaking into the fine art world more and more, enjoying success and recognition from places we’ve never gotten it before. And it seems most tattoo artists nowadays are able to work in fairly respectable shops, earning a decent living and taking part in all the consumerist fetishes that so-called normal people do. I personally think it’s less a matter of being an outsider and more one of being wary of the false promises and superficial happiness of materialism and the myopic selfishness of the “American Dream.” It’s like, we can now contribute as would-be insiders, to the struggles of true outsiders that still remain, like working immigrants or other minority groups facing more suffering and hardships than we do.
4. How long have you been tattooing? Where did you get your start?
I’ve been tattooing for 6 and a half years, and I got my start under Mark Savaikis at Tattoo International in Wallingford, CT. From there I furthered my learning and development at Darkside Tattoo.
5. Do you think there that there are traces of your philosophical stances in your artwork? Traces of your artwork in your philosophical stances?
(see answer to question 2)
6. Tell us about where you're working and what the environment is like.
Right now I work at Transcend Tattoo and Art Gallery in Branford, CT. It’s a really big shop actually, with a lot of talented guys, but it’s a super mellow environment, nicely furnished, where everyone pretty much comes and goes as they please, working in their own private rooms. There’s also a large front room area where we sometimes hold art openings and gallery shows.
7. What responses have you gotten from your website?
I’ve gotten tremendous response from my website, mostly favorable. Most responses I get are regarding my tattoos and wanting appointments, but I have a lot of my fine artwork up also, and a pretty decent discussion forum/messageboard as well as a fairly extensive reading library of political and philosophical texts. Having a website that gets a lot of traffic, thanks to TattooNow’s search engine friendly programming, has been great for connecting with likeminded people and clients, and I’m very thankful for that.
8. In addition to artwork, what are your passions?
Besides art, I’m into psychology--specifically Choice Theory, veganism and animal rights, the hardcore music scene, Straight Edge, environmentalism and the outdoors, personal growth and just trying to live a conscientious, healthy, positive, inspired and exciting life. Which is no small task.
9. Where do you find the inspiration for your designs? You come up with some pretty crazy stuff...
Really my inspiration just comes from life experience and the world around me, my emotions and beliefs, sometimes dreams and the subconscious, and sometimes for tattoos it comes from the client’s ideas and thoughts. I’ve been fortunate enough to tattoo some really creative, fun, interesting people.
10. Feel free to add anything else you want to share, or anything else you think our readers would like to know.