Life, Death and Proust with Lucio Privitello (Post-interview)

It’s a nice morning and spring whispers seductively that she is entertaining the idea of coming around for good. It’s a nice drive to the Stockton campus, where I’ll be attending Dr. Lucio Privitello’s lecture on Marcel Proust and his seven volume work “In Search of Lost Time.” The lecture is part of Stockton’s Classical Humanities lecture series, as presented by the Classical Humanities Society of South Jersey. Lucio is the president of the society and, as referenced in my pre-interview blog, an old friend of mine.

I find the building, and the room, with relative ease. It’s surprising that the campus seems so quiet. The lecture is set up in a small room inside the “K” building. A dozen or so people are there, seated in those “Little House on the Prairie” desks. You know, the “ABC Afterschool Special” kind of desks with the writing section attached so that you need to be a contortionist to sit down. Either that or a hobbit. There is a table against the wall with some water and snacks. I’ll eventually try the cookies (after the lecture). They are ridiculously tasty and it’s a good thing I did wait, lest I may have spent the entire time devouring cookies instead of taking notes.

A lot of the people seem to know each other and I assume that they are members of the Humanities Society. The grey haired heads in the room outnumber those whose follicles have not turned distinguished traitor. From what I gather, some of  these younger attendees are here to fulfill class obligations, while others are there of their own accord.

I set up at a desk in the back, MacBook running. The room has a chalkboard. An honest to goodness, chalk dust, eraser necessary, chalkboard.

Lucio strolls in looking much the same as always. Hair down to the middle of his back, mostly grey, nicotine influenced black in some of the more rebellious areas. He’s wearing his black, leather jacket. It’s so worn that the black has become grey in some spots. Same Italian leather boots. Same dark glasses on his head.

He sees me and a smile lights up his face. We shake hands and give that kind of half-handshake, half-hug, man kind of greeting that requires a back pat. He smells of patchouli and Camel cigarettes. It is truly great to see him again.

I sit down and listen as Lucio presents a fascinating look into the life of Marcel Proust

Marcel Proust

and his staggering work on “In Search of Lost Time.” In truth, I was not initially familiar with Proust and agreed to attend the lecture as a convenient means of sitting down with Lucio. Both of our schedules are exceedingly busy and this seemed to work best for both of us. I did some preliminary research and was intrigued at the possible parallels and connections Proust’s work had to the themes and concepts intended for my own research project. Lucio intended to dissect Proust and his masterpiece, intent on illuminating the author’s use of the classics.

As the lecture marched on, I found myself discovering that there were more and more points either directly related to concepts I’d planned to inject into my story, or fresh ideas lurking, yet undiscovered. I’d been ambushed by an unsuspected research opportunity! My fingers danced along the keys as Lucio lectured and Proust taught. By the time the lecture was over, I had 5 pages of type-written notes.

I must mention that the lecture, and more importantly Proust (again), had a rewarding subplot. Proust desired nothing more than to create, to write. His entire laborious effort was to produce writing and to examine and immerse himself in that process. It was enlightening and encouraging as a creator, as a writer, research project and story aside.

Some of the key concepts that I pulled from the lecture and intend to use in my story are:

  • “..the object that, in essence, captures the person lost..” Proust believed that there was some object, outside of the intellect, that would be a catalyst for memory, for rediscovery of a lost love. This thing could not be searched for. It had to be stumbled upon. I intend to use tattoos, as portraits done on skin, as the catalyst object. The idea of removing it from active thought and making it a “fated” discovery is intriguing.
  • Proust’s idea that “the value of the work you wish to create is equal to the life that you provide for it.” I intend to make the art of tattooing akin to sorcery in the hands of those trained, Ars Tattooica. If an inkslinger loved someone deep enough, could they infuse said portrait with the power to capture their soul?
  • Art triumphs over the destructive power of time. I’ll play with serial immortality here and art as the means to create life where death has left a void. Proust’s conceptual struggle of “cruel enchantment.”
  • Proust’s concept of the three “Ways”; three roads in life – Proust’s definition of how the world made sense to him. The Way of Love, The Way of Art (creativity), and the Way of Society. In my story, which seems to be falling into a tragic love story in a dark and dystopian world, The Way of Love becomes the Way of Lost Love (death), The Way of Art (Tattoos) and The Way of Society (mainstream vs. deviants).
  • Proust’s idea of “Paradise Lost” and how it can drive the pursuit to create art. Proust explains that poets try to find paradise to inspire and revitalize the spirit, but that “true paradises are those we have lost.” Loss is the impetus for the revitalization of writing.

I feel compelled to tell you that Proust was quite the ethnographic researcher as well. He spent a lot of his nights attending high society affairs just so that he could get the proper way one might wear a hat, or what dances were done in certain company, etc. He was a slave to detail, often completing one page, sending it to the printer, and then marking it up completely when receiving it. This is why it took him 17 years to complete his manuscript, but this was his search for order in the creative process. He was immersed in an inner journey to understand the process, the journey, much the same as was intended for our Research Methods for Writers course. Let’s just hope it does not take us 17 years.

The lecture concludes and I wrap up, allowing Lucio the time to speak with those who linger to talk to him. He introduces me to George Plamantouras, from the Department of Greek Studies. George filmed the lecture and later, when Lucio and I are talking in his office, he’ll stop by to give me a copy of the latest Greek Studies publication,  The Hellenic Voice.

I help Lucio take down some of the flyers advertising today’s lecture, stopping outside with him as he takes a Camel cigarette break.

It’s nice out and we talk about grad classes (he’s interested to hear about my studies), my projects, and about poetry. His wife is a poet and studying at Stockton. We reminisce a bit about the days at Glassboro and I’m surprised to hear that he still has a project of mine I forgot ever submitting. I knew he had one project that a friend and I had turned in, these aged and arcane scrolls, but not this other. He kindly tells me that “students like [me] elevate the entire graduate program, because [we] provide energy to the professors. [We] get [them] excited and energized.”

I put that here, not to boast, or pat myself on the back, but to illustrate to my peers that your level of enthusiasm and dedication is reflective in the energy returned in academia. That again Proust’s concepts come to roost: “the value of the work you wish to create is equal to the life that you provide for it.”

He draws in the last of his cigarette and says, “This is great. This is really great, keeping in touch like this, after all these years.” He shakes his head, “Aw, man. I meant to mention you at the end of the lecture. This is a perfect example of the lecture.” He is referring to the concept of something lost and fading from memory, returning to revitalize and rekindle friendship or love, and the spark it ignites in the soul of the creator.

We retire to his office, a small but cozy niche in the philosophy department. He has his desk and bookshelves, a comfortable love seat, a coffee maker and a small curio table. It’s dim, reminiscent of a small, city coffee shop. The walls are filled with pictures and post cards, of musical, literary and cinematic figures. Skulls and art and curious artifacts make the room a blend of Indiana Jones meets Aleister Crowley.

We sit and discuss the lecture a bit, about Proust, about where my project is going and what the story is. He is excited about the opportunity Proust has afforded me and intrigued by my idea of immortality via art. He digs through a pile of books that he has and finds a copy of his class text for his “Philosophies of Life and Death” class. His last copy. He begins by telling me all of the chapters I would find most resourceful, flipping through the text. Finally, he hands it to me. “I think you should have this,” he says. I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am. Not only do I understand the level of connection this man has to each and every text he claims his own, but this was put together by Lucio himself, a man I deeply respect and admire. I accept it with, what I hope, is understood as sincere gratitude.

We talk about immortality a bit more and the various cultural thoughts behind the soul, tattoos and the afterlife. I show him my note filled, dog-eared copy of The History of Tattooing. “Meghan would love this,” he says, referring to his wife. “She has a number of books about tattooing.” He stops to admire all the writing in the margins of the book. “This is what I love,” he says. “I stop whenever I see a student writing in their book, making notes.” He says that he let’s them know they’re doing the right thing, engaging the reading.

We talk about the aesthetics of expression and about tattoos. Lucio tells me that his own tattoos are “Signals for himself”. They are “acupuncture memories”, “bookmarks.” He begins to relate to me some of the concepts behind his own tattoos.

On the outside of his right hand, along the webbing between thumb and forefinger is tattooed, in Latin: Love your fate.

This has been put on his right hand specifically because he is right-handed, because that is the hand he shakes with.

On his left, in the same spot, is tattooed in Latin: laugh if you are wise.

He has placed them both in mirror spots because they compliment each other, like bookends. They bring things full circle.

The famous Davinci man is tattooed on his right arm. To Lucio it represents the travels his life has led him through. The order of things. On his left arm he has Georges Bataille’s Acephale man. This is not surprising considering Lucio’s love of Nietzsche and studies on death. But again, these are the alpha and the omega, the beginning and end. There is an order here. Lucio reiterates the importance of placement with tattoos. It echoes the sentiment that this is not just art, for art’s sake, but that this is an inner sense of self, translated on skin for oneself and for the world. It is an “apprenticeship in creativity,” he says.

He explains that when he leaves his body, when he dies, for a time those images will remain and that is, in a sense, an extension of life. A presentation of immortality that, if followed, presents his trajectory for life.

We say our goodbyes, reiterating how great it was to see each other again. Summer approaches and both of our schedules will ease up a bit. We vow to get together for dinner. He and Meghan coming down our way, Kristen and I coming up to see them. I haven’t seen his new place since I helped him move the “library of Alexandria” last summer.

The trip home is an exhilarating rehashing of how wonderful the research process is when you actively engage it and the mystery of life’s journey.

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Reality Check with Brad Kingett (Post interview report)

I arrive at the new Glassboro Barnes and Noble early, a feat I save for school and writing related projects. I’m supposed to meet Brad here, in the cafe’, at 6:30 p.m. The cafe’ is fairly empty and I try out about five tables before settling for one that falls victim to the least amount of sunglare. I feel like Marcel Proust, particular in my choice of seating arrangements and comfort, trying out table after table. The floor to ceiling windows of the ghost town cafe are like magnifying glasses, channeling the sun right into my eyes. Sitting down is better, it hides you from the solar death ray.

I take out my notepad and set up my laptop. I open up my interview document, intending to refer to my bullet points as the conversation ensues. I’ll wind up not referring to it much at all as the interview drives itself and I remember a lot of the points that I wanted to discuss. I order my grande mocha, with whipped cream, and relax, splitting time between my drink and watching the door. I’ve never met Brad and we didn’t elect to wear some code garment, like a red sombrero, or “Members Only” jackets.  There are now four other tables with customers, but I am the only one that looks like he is prepared to interview someone or transfer the plans for a super secret new missile system to Tom Cruise. I decide that Brad will probably be the guy to come in with his head on a slow swivel looking for me.

At about 6:40 p.m. Brad walks in. At least I think it’s Brad and hopefully not somebody looking for super secret missile system plans. He’s scanning the cafe’ and I stand up, “Brad?”

“Yeah,” he says. He’s smiling, that’s always a good start.

“Joe McGee,” I say. We shake hands, he gets a drink (something in a small cup, I’m not sure why I notice the small cup, but I do. Now I’m feeling imperialistic with the might of my grande cup. I make a mental note to stop making mental notes of his cup, forget my cup, get on with the interview).

Brad is a little taller than me, caucasian, and young (23). He’s wearing a t-shirt, flannel and a windbreaker kind of jacket. He has shorter blonde hair, with gel in it, waved over to one side in a preppy punk (and this would not be an insult to Brad) kind of neo-rockabilly fashion. He’s clean-shaven and his ears sport large gauges (those earring piercings that create large holes in the lobe). Brad will later tell me that they might be 5/8 of an inch. He’s not sure exactly, but they’re some “weird size around 3/4″ but not 3/4”. The earrings are important because they connect to tattoos, aesthetic expression and a definition and discussion of a deviant subculture, something Brad connects to and feels comfortable in the company of like-minded individuals. During the course of the interview it will become apparent, as my sleeves become pulled up, and my longer hair and obvious earrings are evident, that we share a connection to this related subculture.

We sip at our drinks and engage in some small talk. He apologizes for being late, says he’s never been to this Barnes & Noble. He wasn’t exactly sure where it was. He’s from Sewell, so he’s close.

Brad is an artist besides a photographer and film maker. I mention that I understand he has some art in a gallery here in downtown Glassboro. Yes, he says. He thinks it’s on Front Street, he’s not really sure. He knows it’s across from a BBQ place. He believes it’s been open about a month. I get the impression that he has a lot going on and the art aspect is in the background right now. I’ll come to find out later that he also works at a law firm and this weekend he spent 15 hours filming footage for the potential show that got my attention in the first place. It was a very hectic weekend, he tells me. A lot of people backed out, making for a very frustrating time. He tells me that out of 15 hours of film, he probably has 15 minutes worth of decent footage, stuff he can use for the show.

I ask him to tell me a little bit about his background and about art. I want to know what he likes to work with and how he got to where he is. I basically open the floor up to Brad and he runs with it. Brad turns out to be quite the talker and at times I have to almost interrupt him to focus in on something he says (something I don’t like to do as it can often be seen as stepping on someone’s toes). But the conversation unfolds like a tulip in May and I let Brad go, scribbling away on my notepad.

Brad tells me that he likes to work in a lot of different mediums. He started with drawing and sketching, before progressing into painting and then finally into film and photography. He names Ralph Steadman as a major influence in his art career, highlighting the fact that Steadman did Hunter S. Thompson’s illustrations for his book. Brad liked Steadman’s use of the fountain pen and how the artist can use the ink mess as part of the art.

"Rats in the Kitchen" by Steadman

At the end of our conversation, after the notepad is away and we are just two tattooed guys discussing movies on Netflix, he’ll tell me that “Escape through the Gift Shop” is about Steadman. But in the moment, we’re discussing artists who have influenced his own work. I mention artist Greg Simkins as another who does some neat things with inks. He mentions Shel Silverstein and the surreal style of Tim Burton.

He enjoys working mostly in black and white and in drawing images. He tells me that usually only looks at the image once and then draws from memory. Whatever features stand out in his mind are those that get exaggerated or focused on.

Brad went to St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia. In school he tended to get in trouble for approaching projects in a different light, something strange when you consider the inherent individuality of expression in the nature of art itself. Because of this, he was mostly a “C” student. He tells me about a class they had on the holocaust and this “very dark” painting that he did. After it was graded and no longer required for the class, Brad wanted to do something with it. There were paintings hanging in the English hallway. He found an old nail and bent it a bit, pushing it further into the bricks so that he could hang up his painting. It stayed there for three years until included in an art auction where it was sold to a private buyer. “It wasn’t even supposed to be there,” he says, smiling. “It was my own little mark I left on the school.”

“I don’t think you can grade art,” he says. “You can tell if someone is there to genuinely work, or if they are there just because it is required.”

Art by Brad Kingett

We toss around the idea of defining art as the end result of someones creation. Is it something produced by someone with true skill, someone “who can actually draw”, or is it something that looks cool? Brad says that he likes drawing made up creations because it comes from his imagination. Who is to say what is right and what isn’t at this point?

After drawing and painting, he went into film. Brad was heavily into the music scene, both as a participant and as a spectator. In fact, this was where his love of tattoos and piercings started. He was (and is) into the punk and hardcore scene. He started shooting video of the bands as a result of spending so much time with them. He was following the music, spending money and discovering that the bands had no money. By filming the scene, he could be involved and maybe make a buck. However, he needed money to buy film, gas and equipment. And, oh yeah, food. You know, the important things.

Brad realized he’d have to branch out. He started Risen (pronounced Rye-zin) Industries in 2007 and got involved in infomercials. He did a 10 minute video for an Aflac insurance agent about supplemental insurance that was put on the client’s website. It successfully developed more business for Brad and gave him the confidence to pursue this further as he understood that he could expand his work.

Brad moved from web clips to television commercials. Risen Industries filmed a commercial for Empire Tattoo (Sewell, Pitman, and Clementon) that aired on MTV in the late hours, or as Brad categorized “when people with tattoos would be more likely to be watching.” I ask him if he got ink out of the deal and he laughs, “Yeah, I got some ink.” However, none is visible to me at this point (and later, Brad explains his desire to appear mainstreamed as much as possible).

Right now he does a lot of weddings, which he claims to “absolutely hate.” But he does them because they pay “phenomenally.” He explains that it’s almost a crime to charge what he does, but he has to. If you don’t charge the exorbitant amount of money that people expect to be quoted, they won’t hire you because they think you must not be good or that something is rotten in Denmark. People expect to be charged a lot for wedding photography. For Brad, the prospect of doing these kinds of things is necessary, but not very exciting. It’s like a routine documentary about people who he has no connection to. However, this affords him the ability to do the more creative projects, to fund the kinds of things he is actually interested in. He compares it, in a way, to being a tattoo artist. “You do it because you have the skill, but you are doing specifically what they want you to do.”

According to Brad, some people call this “selling out.” But again, this is a necessary means to a creative end. The fun projects will not fund themselves. He laughs at the notion of “selling out.” He says that he could show me pages and pages of scripts for so-called “reality shows.” If you ask him, that’s “selling out”, right there.

Brad is in the process of opening a second branch, Risen Industries Sucks. The original incarnation of his business would handle all of the tamer aspects, such as wedding and photography. Risen Sucks would handle all the band stuff, head shots, artwork and off the wall projects. He explains that he can’t have that stuff in his office with all the wedding photo people because it gives the wrong impression. It comes down to balancing the reality of business versus the desire to chase the imagination.

Chasing the imagination brings us to the current film project that first attracted my attention. Risen Industries is shooting a reality television show at Sinful Creations, Vineland, New Jersey. With the success of TLCs shows like Miami Ink and LA Ink, as well as the apparent attraction to a misconstrued sense of NJ (Jersey Shore, Real Housewives of New Jersey), Brad recognized an opportunity to jump on board with something as promising as this. What really attracted him to the project was the approach they wanted to take. They wanted a reality reality television show.

Their show is going to illustrate those things that you don’t see in the others. They want to focus on the people coming in to get tattoos, and that sometimes it’s just because it looks cool. Not every tattoo has some epic back story. They wanted to show that it is personal and invasive, that the artist is on your personal space. It’s intimate, they are touching you and the obligatory small talk is like going to get your hair cut.

The artists in the show consulted other artists to pick their brains about what they might like to see presented. One complaint is that those other shows never show a price, they never show money changing hands.  It reminds me of a placard I saw in Mean Street Tattoo (Queens, NY) shop: “A cheap tattoo ain’t good, and a good tattoo ain’t cheap.” The artists had issues that people don’t realize how much tattoos cost, that they are expensive.

They wanted to show that tattoos hurt. On those TLC shows, Brad says, you never see anyone cry. In the last weekend of filming, there was a girl getting the entire top of her foot done. There’s a lot of bone there, he explains. It hurts. “You never see tears on t.v.. The pain is real.”

Brad talks about a tattoo artist that was getting a tattoo machine tattooed on him (something that only a tattoo artist can get put on their body, according to Brad). This tattoo artist said that he “hates getting a tattoo.” He liked that tattoos, but he hated getting them. “It hurts when you are getting it and it hurts for a few days after. I hate this.” Brad laughs. “You don’t hear ‘This sucks’ or ‘That hurt’.”

They want to make sure that people know what they are getting into so they don’t waste their time, or the artists time. People need to know this stuff, says Brad. He talks a little about the pain and procedures involved in removing tattoos. “Tattoos were never meant to be removed,” he says. Incidentally, my brother John, who lives in Texas is getting a tattoo removed from the inside of his forearm. He tells me that the process hurts ten times more than getting the tattoo. He is five sessions in and probably has five more to go.

Laser tattoo removal - 5 sessions in

They also want to show the fun involved. They want to show what really goes on. On the last day of filming, the shop manager managed to clog the toilet and they filmed the entire episode. “It was just funny,” says Brad. “You’d never see that on other shows.”

And there are snippets that won’t make the final cut, but provide insight never the less. I’ve mentioned in previous blogs about the correct form of terminology: Tattoo machines NOT guns. One of the artists yelled at Brad about his reference to a “tattoo gun”. Brad replied that “both put holes in you.” “Yeah?” said the artist, pulling a gun out of his drawer. “This one will kill you.”

They are shopping it to Bravo and MTV right now. MTV seems to be the most interested.

The applicants for the show submit their name, age, picture of themselves, tattoo idea, body location, color or black and white, and reason for getting it. The artists have a chance to review and sign off on the ones they are interested in doing. This is a chance for the individual artist to showcase their own skills. Some are good at portraits, others enjoy pure black and white work, while others like illustration. Brad explains that it is a combination of what they are good at and what they are interested in.

Area artists are, according to Brad, excited about the project, but at the same time a bit hesitant. Brad thinks that they are waiting to see the final project and reserving their judgment until then. He thinks the show is going to surprise a lot of people. And yet, some artists will still claim that they “sold out.”  Brad explains that everyone strives to be successful but once you hit that level of success you are out of the circle. You have “sold out.” Brad goes on to explain that the whole process is an act of doing what someone else wants you to do in the first place. With art, nobody is forcing the buyer to purchase it. They buy it because they like it. The artist did the work that he wanted and left it. With tattoos, you are doing what you are hired to do. The point I imagine he is getting at here is that, at what point do you decide to scorn someone for the success they reap by doing work for hire in the first place?

Brad laughs and says that if it were an accounting reality t.v. show, where they were auditing on t.v., they’d probably be applauded by their peers. He mentions the Sistine Chapel. It’s just hired work, he says. “Painting the walls in a pattern. Hired painters.”

Creation of Man; Sistine Chapel

Another tattoo artist echoed Brad’s own sentiment. Being a tattoo artist in and of itself is selling out, he said (his words not mine). His reasoning was that you are taking someones idea, someones creation and doing it for money. That tattoo artists are paid to create someones vision beyond their own. This particular artist was a painter and for him, tattooing was a means to earn money for his painting. “My talents get me the money to do what I want.”

We come back full circle to the art. He tells me that he has drawn up some tattoos for people. They take it to the artists and the artists put their tweak on things. He thinks it is cool that “something you created is something they put on their body.” It “commemorates something you did.”

I ask him about the separation for an artist, that moment that someone buys their art and takes it with them, what does that feel like and in a sense, is this feeling the same for a tattoo artist that sees his work literally walk away. Brad describes it as “bittersweet.” On the one hand, you are losing something you created, he explains, but on the other hand, someone wanted it bad enough to pay you for it. As an artist, he explains, you make a conscious decision to put a price on something that you have created. You give it value and if it is desired enough, that price will be paid. If it’s something that you hold so dear you wouldn’t dream of getting rid of, you just don’t put the price on it in the first place, you wouldn’t put it out there for sale.

Brad’s love of the entire art process is most evident when he tells me that if he were to come upon someone viewing a piece of his art, raving about it, desiring it, and talking to him (Brad) unaware that he was the artist, he would just give it to him. “It’s yours,” he says, complete with an offering hand gesture. “Because that’s someone who really loves the art, not someone saying, ‘oh, this would look great in the living room’.”

On the subject of art, I ask him to tell me his thoughts on the art’s ability to “speak.” He explains that some things need an explanation and if you are around, or if you are the bearer of the tattoo, you can offer that explanation versus someone completely missing the point. I make a note that perhaps this means the objects cannot speak on their own, if they need someone to translate, but as I write this, I begin to think that maybe they do speak. They just say different things to different people. Brad states that some tattoos have bigger meaning than others ( a sentiment echoed by other artists, most recently by Matt Doherty and Tracey Morse of Mystic Eye Tattoo).

But, to Brad, the tattoo represents a subculture. He likes when he sees someone with tattoos or piercings because he knows he’ll be able to relate to that on person on at least some level. “You share a culture,” he says. “It tells me that you’re in the same realm that I’m in. That there’s some common ground.” If he is in a room, or at a party, and he doesn’t feel comfortable, he knows that he can hang with a person who shares that connection. “A single serving friend,” he jokes. “Both oddballs.”

Brad explains that he is a straight edge (someone who abstains from drugs and alcohol) and that if he sees someone else with an “X” on their body, he knows that he has a kindred spirit.

He acknowledges that people are quick to judge. He believes that they probably think, “Oh, here comes trouble.” He goes on to say that “if someone gets to know me, they might be glad they did because otherwise they might have missed out on meeting a good person.” He understands that his choice to embrace a seemingly deviant appearance brings with it questions. It’s part of the territory. He does not get upset and tells his friends to act the same way. “People are going to ask questions,” he says. “Don’t be angry at them for that.” He doesn’t think it will ever be completely mainstreamed. The parental influence is, in his opinion, too strong. Parents pass down to their kids that you do not get tattoos.

We talk about the gauges he has in his ears. He tells me he got them because he was bored. Again, he works in a law firm during the day and can’t get too crazy. He has flesh tone gauges in case he needs them for work. But mostly he will not go any bigger with them because it’s a cost issue. He doesn’t want to buy any more jewelry.

When he gets older he thinks his tattoos will serve as memories, like a scar. “It’s a moment and a memory,” he says. These are stories of and from our lives.

This echoes my theory of aesthetic expression and inner identity as outward expression. That tattoos are shards of soul gazing.

We wrap up the official side of business and Brad tells me that he has a shoot coming up in the next few weeks and that I’m invited to come down and hang out, take notes, ask questions. He is eager to answer any other questions that I have and let’s me know that if there is anything I need to know, just shoot him an email. We talk about movies for a bit and Brad says that it is so nice to sit and have an actual face to face conversation, especially in this crazy world of text messages, Twitter, Facebook, and emails.

It’s about quarter to eight. We’ve sat and talked for over an  hour and could probably talk for hours more. We shake hands (he has a strong handshake, always a solid attribute) and Brad leaves, reminding me to email him with any questions I have. I tell him that I will, of course, do that and also keep him informed about where the project goes. I thank him again.

I pack up my stuff, spend a few minutes perusing the magazine section and then head off into the darkness of the mid-March night.

Pre-interview Prep for Brad Kingett, Risen Industries

My peer and friend, Alexa Mantell, was kind enough to point me in Brad’s direction. Brad is the owner of Risen Industries,

Risen Industries

a film and photography company that encompasses quite a spectrum of projects. Brad is filming a project for television that revolves around the tattoo industry and incorporates accepted “applicants” for on-air tattoos. Now, I have to profess that I am not aware of many of the project’s details. This past weekend was the first “shoot” and much of the talk has been kept under wraps for now. I hope to remedy that situation tomorrow night.

I will be meeting Brad at the Barnes & Noble cafe’ in Glassboro, Monday, March 14th at 6:30 p.m. Brad is from the area and also has an art gallery in downtown Glassboro. I think that Brad will be an excellent resource for me for two reasons. His film project is obviously of great interest, especially in the wake of those major shows that have come before (LA Ink, Miami Ink, etc). The opportunity to discuss the project, the direction of it and intended goals will be important in illustrating society’s  continued trends and interest in the art of tattooing. There are also thoughts that the industry has veered wildly off course from the intentions of the “fore fathers” of tattooing. There are those who feel that this change is to be embraced as it has catapulted the tattoo industry into an accepted part of mainstream society. These are some of the thoughts I’d like to discuss with Brad as we sit down over our triple, double mocha half-calf, iced double grande lattes (kidding, I’ll probably skip the ice).

The other side of the coin, is that I’d like to talk to Brad as an artist. Not a tattoo artist, but a graphic/fine artist. He works with many different media and it is interesting to me (especially in light of Lorraine Daston’s “Things That Talk”) what his thoughts are on tattoos as an art form. I’d like to know how he perceives the evolution of the craft and if/how tattoos can “speak” to us.

As far as Gubrium and Holstein’s “Postmodern Interviewing” is concerned, I believe that my interview with Brad will be an active interview, with a “developing plot” (p. 75). The parameters of the topic are so loosely connected that I cannot be entirely sure which path our conversation will take us. There is also the consideration that I am not entirely informed as to the breadth of the tattoo film project and/or Brad’s experiences with it. By conducting the interview in a fluid and dynamic fashion, it will ensure that we are both able to enjoy and contribute to the conversation.

I am looking forward to my interview with Brad tomorrow and very pleased with how receptive he was to sitting down with me.

State of My (Tattoo Research) Union Address

The findings of my research so far (and let me tell you, I still believe myself to be only ankle-deep in research) has been richly rewarding. The sociocultural connections that I have discovered to date provide enough material to fuel several stories. And let’s not be fooled, my direction has been fully plotted for a rich story of darker magical realism. “The History of Tattooing” (Dover Publications, 2009) is rife with incredible real world examples of tattoo history that could easily find itself in the pages of a Stephen King, Clive Barker, or Joseph McGee novel. Yes, I did just put myself in the same company, lol…my blog, my rules.

For instance, there were several early beliefs ( as written in Sinclair’s “American Anthropologist”, vol. X and XI) that the soul was regarded as a tangible object. Upon physical death, the soul, or spirit, assumed an “exact replica of the earthly body”, to include any tattoos or marks. These tattoos served as rites of passage through the afterlife. Take the Sioux Indians for example. They believed that tattoos received in life would allow for their passage to the “Many Lodges” in the afterlife. It was Sioux belief that the spirit, mounted on his spirit horse, would be stopped in his ghostly passage by an old woman. It was her duty to inspect the dead warrior for his marks, or tattoos (often on his forehead or wrists, and sometimes on his chin). If he was discovered without, he was thrown from the cliff, or cloud, to wander aimlessly and melancholy through the mortal world.

Page Notes from "The History of Tattooing"

The Northern Tangkhuls (India) believed that tattoos linked husband and wife in the afterlife. The Abor tribes (Himalayan) considered the tattoo the “poor man’s identification mark in heaven.”  Those of wealth were adorned with possessions befitting their station. Those without were inked up.

These are only a few of the examples that I have begun to unearth in my research. These are the kinds of details that make for great storytelling. These are the kinds of facts that, when tweaked by an overactive imagination, become stories.

As I prepare to move into the interview phase of my research, I have lined up the following potential resources:

I will be conducting two face to face interviews for the story, both with practicing tattoo artists. Erin Kane is an artist at Infamous Arts Gallery in Plymouth, PA.

Tattoo by Erin Kane

Brian DiCola is an artist at Loyalty Ink, in Kenvil, NJ and at Eddies Tattoo, in Philadelphia, PA.

Tattoo by Brian DiCola

Both have agreed to chat with me about themes, concepts and ideas that I have mentioned in my previous blog about the direction my story was going. I am awaiting an answer on speculative times and dates.

I have also requested two of my recent online (Twitter) contacts to interview with me. Christine Murphy

Christine Murphy

(@ChrisMeanStreet), an apprentice artist at Mean Street Tattoo,College Point, NY, has agreed to interview with me. Due to the busy and irregular schedule of their work, we are trying to set up a time for a slower night of the week. Chris is more than willing to help me out and we have been in email communication to establish a firm time. I am waiting to hear from Brandee Gordon

Tattoo by Brandee Gordon

(@nativeinktattoo), of Native Ink Tattoo, Central Indiana. I mentioned Ms. Gordon and her studio in my previous blog.

And, perhaps reminiscent of Hunter S. Thompson, as the research begins to develop and I get deeper into this world of ink, I find myself with appointments and invites from the artists I have been in contact with. I have tentative appointments with Erin and Christine. I fancy the thought of one day flying out to Indiana to get work done by Brandee, and Brian is right across the bridge, inking away. In fact, the more I grow to learn about and appreciate the deeper implications of the craft, the art, and the people who do it, the more I find myself intrigued by the idea of traveling to new artists for different pieces.

It seems that this adds another dimension to the piece, in which it is no longer JUST a piece of who you are, it is a tale of where you’ve been and who you’ve met and in this instant (and for every instant after) that inkwork on your skin tells a tale of a person and place with whom you will forever be connected. It is, in this sense, a “talkative thing” (as described by Lorraine Daston in her introduction to “Things That Talk” (Zone Books, 2008)).

If You Build It, They Will Ink: Tearing down the walls of tattoo “tradition”

There is a movement happening in America that you may not even be aware of. You see the signs around you, inked across the skin of soccer mom and goth girl alike. The bank teller hands you your change and your eyes flit across the colorful chain of flowers tattooed around her wrist. Your neighbor mows the lawn, tank top proudly worn to expose the guns and the tribal swirl covering his shoulder. Professional athletes, covered in tattoos, are idolized and celebrated. Tattoos are no longer “confined to sailors and street hoodlums” (Levins). Celebrities, what we embrace as near royalty in modern society, show us, through their own ink, that tattoos are no longer for the shadows.

Actor Johnny Depp Photo Credit: Tattoo Retro

In fact, the tattoo industry (as of recent reports) is the sixth-fastest growing retail industry in the United States. Within 10 miles of my house alone, there are 20 tattoo studios. These are not back alley parlors where designs are chosen from boards on the wall and customers are herded through on skin canvas production lines. These are warm, sterile, creative places where tattoos are done mostly by “appointment only”. These are places like Mystic Eye Tattoo, DNA Tattooing or Patrick Tattoo, where every attempt is made to cater to a growing middle-class of tattoo customers. What is the fastest growing demographic of the newly tattoo initiated? Middle-class suburban moms.

The Macmillan Encyclopedia of Religion explains “tattoo marks are clearly symbolic… Tattooing in preindustrial societies dominantly relates the tattooed person to a social group or totemic clan, age or sex category, secret society or warrior association… As societies grow more complex and the division of economic and social labor becomes more refined, tattooing becomes more a matter of individual choice and serves the purpose of self-expression… As the technology of the art develops (for example, the invention of the electric tattooing needle), so do the designs and colors multiply, allowing considerable scope for self-expression and making statements about the self… Contemporary tattooed men and women wear on their bodies subtle and beautiful expressions of a continuous tradition that links deity, nature and humankind.” (The Encyclopedia of Religion (16 volumes) Macmillan Publishing, New York, Mircea Eliade, editor, 1987, vol. 2, p. 270).

Tattooing, an art dating back at least 4,000 years (“Tattoo Renaissance,” Time magazine, Dec. 21, 1970, p. 58) is now recognized as a fine art. As John Berendt wrote in Esquire magazine:

“Serious artists…are joining the ranks of tattooers and their designs are being exhibited in museums and featured in expensive coffee table books; fine-art tattooers are, furthermore, leading an effort to improve the image of tattooing….Fine art tattoos…appeal to an affluent, well-educated clientele…The new-style tattooee doesn’t merely pick out a design from the tattooer’s wall; he has an image in mind when he arrives at the studio and then discusses it with the tattooer, much as an art patron commissions a work of art.” (“That Tattoo,” by John Berendt, Esquire magazine, Aug. 1989, p. 32. Thanks to Hoag Levins for supplying the reference).

Tattoo artists themselves, from the celebrated stars of LA Ink (TLC), led by the incredibly talented Kat Von D

Kat Von D

of High Voltage Tattoo and Miami Ink (TLC show), led by the legendary Chris Garver to the local ink scribes of South Jersey, are now recognized as professionals with highly regarded skills.

Chris Garver

When Patrick Levin wanted to open his tattoo business in Camden County, New Jersey, in 1998, he became the first person to be registered under New Jersey’s new tattoo regulations, recognizing him as a “professional” and acknowleding his trade as an “art“.

Patrick Levin

But the highly regarded and much sought after talents of these ink masters are not merely contained to local proximity. People are waiting on appointment lists and traveling out of state to seek work from artists who they feel best represent their identity, their soul. Brandee Gordon, owner of Native Ink Tattoo in Elwood, IN, recently told me that she often has customers fly in to get work done from her. She has also traveled to them, going as far as London to tattoo clients. This is art, appreciated, celebrated, even venerated.

There is a renaissance blossoming of identity and individual celebration. Fine art walks amongst us, gracing the skin canvases of friends, neighbors, co-workers and strangers. There is a desire to share ourselves with the world, from the outside in. People are no longer content to hide behind the walls of their flesh. We are, in a sense, tearing down the walls and the skilled artists of the tattoo industry are helping to lead the charge.

“Your body is a temple, but how long can you live in the same house before you redecorate?”

Brandee Gordon of Native Ink Tattoo

Where the Wild Things Are: Entering the Kingdom of Skin and Ink

I arrived at the Sheraton, in downtown Philadelphia, not knowing what to expect at all. This would be my first tattoo convention and I was excited at the prospect of immersing myself in the culture. A chill rain spit down on the commoners as they slogged their way toward the guarded walls of the tattoo nobility. Make no mistake, there is (as I would come to find out) a hierarchy, a system of rank and privilege, of caste and respect, permeating the entire sub-culture of the tattooed world. This is a Kingdom of Skin & Ink, and I was but a peasant.

I joined the throng of common rabble, crowded within the outer gate of the Sheraton. We stood in the lobby, struggling to make some sense of the fluctuating and undulating line that snaked around the hotel’s lobby like a child’s crayon scribble. It was obvious that the Sheraton was unprepared for this swarm of tattoo enthusiasts. I was unprepared for the amount of people who had come out to celebrate the art of the tattoo. There were girls and boys, men and women, couples with strollers, old people, young people, black, white, asian, pierced, dyed, tough, effeminate, pale, tan, tall, anorexic, over dressed, barely dressed, beards, breasts, handlebar mustaches, hoodies, and ink, ink, ink, ink: sleeves, hands, necks, backs, calves, faces, you name it, it was inked. It was an explosion of skin art and people were there to show it off.

We stood in line, adjusting to the constant moderation of the hotel staff (who was obviously overwhelmed). We drank our drinks, paying lofty prices from the cash bars that had been strategically placed about, oh, every twenty feet. We shuffled our feet forward, discussing music and their ink, my ink, what we wanted next. I was, with a full sleeve half-finished and four other tattoos, feeling extremely under inked. The air smelled like beer, perfume and cigarettes. A cacophony of conversation resounded throughout the vaulted chamber. I waited a half an hour to get my wrist band, a $20 white paper bracelet with red skulls. Now, I had only to wait in the escalator line to gain access to the city proper. 10 minutes later I was ushered past the escalator guard and placed my booted feet upon the rising step of belt fed ascension. The hour was at hand!

There were two floors, two stops, but I went right to the top. Stairway to Heaven, baby. I’d hit the other floor on the way out. Three images assailed me as I stepped off the escalator. First, the attractive girl in the t-shirt and briefest of bikini briefs who had just recently (like 15 minutes ago) had the entire upper half of her right thigh tattooed, The skin was swollen, the lines were red and puffy and the ink was shiny. She wore her cellophane cover like the skin of a prized hunt. Secondly was yet another cash bar which was doing more business than the Camden drug dealers and third, the Philadelphia police officer who looked entirely bored and unaware of the chaos unfolding around him. I stepped into the madness and tried to get my bearings.

Now, this is no easy immediate task. You have to understand that there is complete sensory overload. There are so many people that salmon swimming upstream feel like they live in rural Idaho. There are colors and banners and postcards, and products, and piercings, and wild ink, and lots of skin, and zombie Gumby escorted by horror themed burlesque girls. Pandemonium would be church services in Nebraska on an Easter Sunday. This was something else. But it was a controlled pandemonium. It was an embraced pandemonium and I threw my arms around it and hung on tight.

My first stop was at a book vendor. Now, anyone who knows me will not find this surprising in the least. I could go to the middle of the Sahara Desert and somehow walk out with a new book. So, I checked out what the Bookmistress had to offer. There were a number of very cool books on the history of tattooing, various artists’ style books, some works on symbolism, etc.  There was an interesting book on the meaning and background of actual Soviet tattoos that were forced on prisoners in the middle of the 20th century. However, I was not going to pursue that route for my research project. I did, however, find a gold mine of a book: The History of Tattooing, covering many different tribes and cultures who believed that tattooing was somehow linked to the protection and preservation of the soul. Bingo. Cash for book. Thank you very much. I also picked up an idea inspiring book of art by a really wild, weird and eclectic artist, Greg Craola Simkins.

Yet another Greg Simkins image

From Greg Simkins

A Greg Simkins Image

I passed up a vegan pizza brochure and pocketed the March Monster convention flyer and pressed forward. My eyes trained on the gates beyond the “NO MC Colors” (motorcycle club) and “Must be 18” signs, to the booths of tattoo nobility. And then I realized what was going on. It was so constant, so integral of the entire environment. There was a constant and underlying buzz of tattoo guns. It was like a massive of swarm of mosquitoes had descended upon us and refused to take flight. Every conversation had to elevate itself above the decibel of the humming inkslingers.

I passed through the doors and into the court proper. Here there be dragons. And here, first to greet you was the king himself: Crazy Philadelphia Eddie. Tattoo icon of Philadelphia and the East Coast. He was behind a table, selling copies of his new book (ghost written by a gentleman whom I also met and would be granted the privilege of attaining his contact information). In his mid-seventies, Eddie seemed as spry and able as one would expect of a tough son-of-a-bitch who had made his way with fist and ink from the age of 15 on Coney Island. He wore a white blazer, but his neck and hand tattoos were contrasted only by his neatly clipped silver hair.

“Eddie, how are you?” I said.

“Good, you?”

I commented on the amount of people here, and how awesome it was to see the craft so supported. Then I thought, what the hell, I’m here for research. I mentioned my research project and the neo-tribalism move and social trends. I told him I was doing a graduate research project. I asked if I could contact him and maybe pick his brain.

“What are you in school for?” asked his writer, Eric Foemmel.

I told him I was going for my Master’s in Writing Arts.

“If you want a real job, become a plumber,” Eddie croaked. “That’s what I was going to be.”

“Well, how’d you get into the tattoo business?”

He tapped his book. “It’s all in here,” he said. “All the picking you could get out of my brain is in here.”

“Well, sign me up.” I smiled and handed over $30 as Eddie signed the book to me. I stepped aside and talked to Eric, his writer for a few minutes. He fished his card out of his wallet and gave it to me, excited at the prospect of someone else using tattoos in their graduate studies. He’d done the same for his PhD. and was willing to help me out.

I left Eddie and entered the lower courts. This was where the minor nobility established their courts. Row after row of tattoo artists, each with their own area. Each with their own banner and prints and cards and photo albums or computer screens showing their work. Every artist with their own entourage, their own court. Girls, friends, helpers, hangers-on of some sort. Every artist, except the occasional available one, tattooing someone’s side or arm, or back, or leg or head. Drawings, transfers, tattoo guns humming. Shoulder to shoulder, people pressing by. No modesty. Skin exposed. Bellies and backs and breasts barely covered. Artists from Texas, and Lansdale, and Massachusetts, and NYC and Detroit. From all over the country they came. Piercings and branding and scarring. Nurse on  duty. Stop and watch.


The next level down was for the true royalty (besides the King, of course. Eddie reigns supreme. An icon). But here were the modern movers and shakers. The Mark Wahlbergs of the tattooing industry. They had whole city blocks as far as space was distributed. They had lights and cameras and entire staffs at their disposal. Here too were the burlesque girls and the painters. The art exhibit and vendors (to include a $1750 jacket that I wanted to mortgage my house for). You could buy jewelery, novelties, piercings. clothing, shrunken heads, bags, books, hats, glasses, etc, etc. This was the marketplace and the quote from Hellraiser seems most appropriate here: “Oh, we have such sights to show you.”

I did my best to push through, wanting to buy everything but buying nothing (except for the books I’d purchased already and don’t think I didn’t contemplate selling whatever I had to, to get that jacket). I would get no ink done today. It seems the protocol is to set up appointments ahead of time. The convention runs Fri-Sun and it seems that people go on Friday, or get rooms and schedule appointments through the weekend. It is extremely rare that one can show up and just get something done. So, I shuffled past the group of apparent motorcycle club members in the midst of a “conversation” with the police. I sidestepped the thirty something couple with their five-year old son. I brushed past the goth girls with their emo boy-guy-friendy things, and made my way to the escalator. And this is where it goes full circle.

Apparently escalators at tattoo conventions are magical portals of bikini wearing girls. There, barring my way from entering said escalator, was a breathing Barbie doll with strips of cloth supposedly passing for a bikini. She was exhibiting her back tattoo (and just about everything else) to the group of camera wielding barbarians behind her. I made sure I wasn’t in the shot and slipped past. I had a wife and three little boys to meet. We were having dinner at Don Pablo’s.

I drove home, writing furiously into my notebook at every red light or traffic stop. It had been an intense and rewarding field experience, one on which my research journey will be built upon, not decided by. It was obvious, in this one afternoon I spent amongst those whom with I share a common bond, that this is no mere hobby or expression. This is a lifestyle. This is an extension of the soul and I am a citizen of their world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REFLECTION

It is interesting to note that I conducted this field research prior to any class discussion of ethnographic field study, note taking, transcribing, and active researching. We’d only just picked our topics that week, most were still not approved, but the convention was going on that weekend whether or not I was going to be delving into this project. That being said, and after extensive study and some practice with ethnographic field notes, I have to say that I am very satisfied with how my excursion turned out. I took detailed and extensive notes. I recorded them in a hybrid mix of the examples given in our text, Writing Ethnographic Field Notes, withdrawing at times to scribble in corners or in my car before leaving the parking garage. I pulled sensory details and conceptual ideas out of every corner of that convention, even bringing home two texts that would prove to be instrumental in my research and an excellent interview subject in the form of Eric Foemmel.

I’m not sure what I would have done differently, except for maybe to make a weekend out of it and actually get some work done there (an appointment is pretty much needed). Maybe some of the after hours activity might have been interesting to observe, but that was not a luxury I had.

All in all, I think that this experience helped me to understand what we were reading and studying in class as I had already successfully done it. It also allowed me to be aware of what I was doing without even necessarily realizing it.

Research Proposal: Ars Velius: Exploring the Urban Shamanism of the Ink Bard

And so here, in the eyes of peers and public, I shall stake claim to my semester-long research project.  It’s funny that as I put these words out before me, immortalized as they are in this electronic pool of infinite data storage, they share a theme with the topic that I’ve chosen. My words, my art, are an extension, an expression, of myself placed upon this digitized canvas. Once I click publish, those words fly off into the world for everyone to witness and I am, in that sense, exposing myself to the world. I am expressing myself and I am sharing who I am or choose to be. And this is the power of the tattoo.

Tattooing, once taboo and reserved for the more disparate and rebellious sorts of counterculture riff-raff, is now mainstream. Soccer Moms, kindergarten teachers, grandfathers and doctors are all sitting in the chair to have imprinted upon their flesh some permanent morsel of their life. A 2006 story in USAToday reported that 24% of Americans aged 18 – 50 are tattooed. That was up from 15% three years prior. How large has that number grown in the four years since the story was published?

Tattoos are stories, memories, tributes, passion, songs, declarations. Tattoos are many things to many people, but there is one thread that holds true to every tattoo inked across every pound of flesh: they are ART. They are meant to be shared. They are meant to be experienced and discussed and appreciated. Like cave drawings telling the stories of lost civilizations, tattoos tell our story. They illustrate who we are. Our skin is the cave wall and you, the observer of our ink, are discovering our stories.

As much as tattoos interest me, it is the tattoo artist which fascinates me. To me, they are akin to bards, regaling courts with harp and song. They are shamans, weaving magic through ink and needle. Their skill enables our identities to see thought become reality. How liberating must it be, I think, to serve in such a fashion, free to practice your craft without fear of expressive discrimination. To earn your living giving life to the soul of every person who comes before you, paying for you to ply your trade. How does one begin? How does one enter into this trade? Can any artist transfer ability to this medium, or is it like the potter who cannot paint or the illustrator who knows only cartooning and not realism? Can it be taught? What life is this, the uninhibited and carefree practice of the inkslinger?

So, I propose to explore the tattoo artist  and their craft as urban shamanism, almost a reflection of our move toward neo-tribal associations and identity illumination. The statement of the individual in a world awash in capitalism, consumerism, and mass corporate appeal.

Art is best served by art. It is for this reason, that I will present my research in a medium that I feel I can best immerse myself in. I plan to write a story (or stories, interconnected) that explore the depths of this research topic. Images assault me of dystopian/speculative fiction shorts, or dark fantasy cemented in magical realism. I can have a lot of fun with this and at the center of them all would be a centralized stark image, a tattoo, and, of course, the shaman him/herself: the tattoo artist. What great characters they could be, especially in a fantasy work of fiction.

The best fiction, fantasy included, is grounded in some bit of reality, no matter how big or small that may be. Even the wildest ideas often have roots in reality somewhere, some idea or image that inspired the writer. This is where my research shall prove paramount in giving me the depth to create a piece truly enriched by the discoveries awaiting me. I look forward to immersing myself in the culture and archives on the subject of tattoo artists and their craft.

As this is not merely a practice without purpose, publication is in mind. To this end, I have considered several possible publications which I will target for submission. Chief amongst these (as farmed from Writer’s Market 2011, Duotrope, and/or Google searches) are:

Clarkesworld Magazine, Strange Horizons, Shimmer Magazine, Dark Valentine, Weird Tales, and Philadelphia Stories.

Most of these were selected because of their attraction to weird, dark, speculative fantasy with flavors of magical realism or the bizarre. Philadelphia Stories is an interest because of their attachment to well written stories by area writers. This is not to say that this list is closed and/or comprehensive, but this is a starting area. These are some magazines that may be interested in what I will eventually write. Other opportunities may present themselves once I am able to research more of the trade magazines that are on the shelves (Inked, Tattoo Magazine, Skin & Ink).

I am also excited at the prospect of exploring the artists themselves, of sitting down to talk with them, of visiting shops and parlors, discussing thoughts via blogs, like Tattoo blog or Swallows & Daggers. Coincidentally, and I just discovered this today, the 2011 Philadelphia Tattoo Arts convention is this weekend (Fri-Sun, $20/day or $40 for all three. Tickets sold at door. See site for details). I’ll be there on Saturday, what a chance to dive right into this thing.

This is an exciting opportunity to explore an area of personal interest and to use it in a genre that I wear like a second skin. Though the immediate research and archive opportunities are local, it is (as demonstrated in the aforementioned USAToday article) a subject of national AND global appeal. I look forward to the challenges ahead and the discoveries that await. Perhaps, at the end of it all, another painting will color my cave wall?