Tattoo Art is coming into its own in Reno

Heather June, a tattoo artist at A Toda Madre Tattoos in Reno, is one of the tattoo artists whose work is on display at a gallery event entitled “Escaped Ink”. The gallery is downstairs at Nevada Fine Arts, 1301 S. Virginia St., Reno. The show opened Saturday and runs through Jan. 27.

Tattoo art is rapidly becoming mainstream in America. What once was the domain of old salts, bikers and sideshow freaks have gone Hollywood with models, actors, and athletes joining the ever-expanding ranks.

Boxing great Mike Tyson made the news in 2003 by getting a giant tribal tattoo on his face. Other trendsetters like actress Melanie Griffith, actor Johnny Depp and musician Katy Perry proudly display little Hello Kitty, and fraternity emblems inked onto their bodies.

To be sure, when art galleries get into the act of displaying tattoo designs, you can rest assured that tattoos have become more prevalent in society. That currently is exactly what’s happening on the burgeoning art scene right here in Reno.

Nevada Fine Arts in Reno set the stage for tattoo artists to display their works in a gallery show called “Escaped Ink.” Located downstairs in the popular art supply store, the artwork of about 15 local tattoo artists is on display.


The exhibit features artists from Black Cat Tattoo Reno, Black Widow Ink, Lasting Dose Tattoo & Art Collective, A Toda Madre Tattoos, & Endless Ink Reno.

Art store owner Mark Hammon said many of his customers are tattoo artists and accomplished artists in their own right. “This is a very exciting show and it will run through January 2018,’ Hammon said. Saturday night’s open reception was attended by an enthusiastic crowd of about 40 people.

“I live in the neighborhood and like to support the arts,” said Lisa Roenspie of Reno. She had paused to admire many of the pieces on display at the show but was mesmerized by an oil painting of a bunny rabbit with fangs popping out of a jack-o-lantern skull titled “Liminality’ by Ron Rash.

“I like the color and darkness of the image. It’s very eclectic,” Roenspie said.

Lola Palma, a tattoo artist from A Toda Madre Tattoos in Reno, didn’t have any of her work on display because she didn’t have anything ready for display. “I’m really enjoying seeing all of the different styles,” Palma said.

The displayed artwork begins in the stairwell leading down to the small gallery at Nevada Fine Arts. It’s nicely lighted with the title of the work, medium and artist’s name printed on a tag alongside each piece. Most of the works are bright and colorful and beautifully detailed. It’s candy for the eyes and very fun. Some pieces are whimsical, neo-traditional style, and some are classical drawings of female nudes.

Heather June, also a tattoo artist at A Toda Madre, has been a tattoo artist for about six years.

“I have always been an artist, and I always created art and from an early age. I knew that I wanted to make money being an artist.” June said. “I’ve been doing tattoos for about six years and I did a 3-year apprenticeship.”

Everything hanging in the gallery is for sale and prices range from about $200 for a framed 5×7-inch painting to $1,500 for “Untitled 1”, a 24×30-inch oil painting of a female nude by Allan Barboza.

Most tattoo art collectors actually wear their tattoo collections. The pain, the exhibitionism and the permanence of tattooing is what makes the phenomenon intriguing.

But tattoo art on paper or canvas is for collectors who may like a tattoo artist’s style, but don’t necessarily want that design permanently on their body. It’s also a great way to support the arts community in Reno.

~ Paul G. White~




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