Art shows celebrate the tattoo's fine arts side
From the frame to the flesh.
Published: February 18, 2014
“You just try to keep your artistic flair and style to what it is that you’re doing to represent yourself as an artist,” she says.
Like any folk art, the lines of ownership of images in the tattoo world can be blurred. “In the tattoo culture, all this imagery has been redrawn and taken from other people and redone. That’s the kind of attitude and belief system in the industry,” Caporusso says. “If someone does a nice piece of work, you’re not going to take that exact tattoo and do it on somebody else — although it does happen.”
Caporusso uses the example of a traditional tattoo image — a clipper ship with a rose. “A million people have done that,” he says. “You just want to put your own style onto it and not mimic something exactly,” though he admits that, like his own Sailor Jerry hula girl homage, that’s not always the case.
“Unless it’s a classic design from an artist you’re collecting, then that’s OK, because usually that artist has been dead for a long time,” he says.
“It’s a weird belief system,” he admits. “You just have to know what you’re putting on somebody else. If the artist is currently working, you’re not going to take his design and put it on somebody else.” Caporusso pauses. “Unless he sells that design in a sketchbook for sale. Then you’re allowed to do it. It’s tricky! You just have to be aware of what you’re doing.”
Caporusso thinks it’s important for the public to be educated about the artistic aspects of tattoos. “When I got my first tattoo, I knew nothing about the culture, the history. I didn’t even really understand that they were artists,” he says. “I didn’t know it was an almost 200-year-old art form. I try to educate my clients about it when I can. That way they’ll have a more enjoyable experience, and more appreciation for the art.”
Felczak agrees. “There’s a clear definition between someone who just does tattoos and someone who truly is a tattoo artist,” she says. “The tattoo artist will take an idea that someone brings and actually turn it into a piece of artwork that is unique to the person, as opposed to just slapping some drawing that they bring in on their body and calling it a day.
“It’s more than a job. It should be more than a job,” she says. “You’re marking people’s bodies for the rest of their lives. If you’re looking at it like it’s nothing but a job, then maybe you should be working at Wal-Mart.”
The intersection of tattoo art and fine art is celebrated in two art shows, Specimens on Display: Artwork of Matt Paw at the Scarab Club and Beyond the Machine III at the Start Gallery, both running in conjunction with the annual Motor City Tattoo Expo.
Specimens on Display opens 6-10 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, at the Scarab Club, 217 Farnsworth St., Detroit; 313-831-1250.
Beyond the Machine III opens 7-11 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Start Gallery, 206 E. Grand River Ave., Second Floor, Detroit; 313-909-2845.
> Email Lee DeVito