Wednesday, January 21, 2015

2015 Star of Texas Tattoo Art Revival Wrap-Up (Days Three and Four)


 If you would like to read about the Opening Party (Day One), click here

 If you would like to read about the Convention Floor (Day Two), click here.

 There is nothing quite like a tattoo convention.  Studios, artists, suppliers, vendors, and entertainers from all over the world set-up to show their collective stuff to the public and to share what they do with the industry.  The biggest conventions, like the Star of Texas Tattoo Art Revival, draw international crowds, giving local artists an opportunity to rub elbows with the best in the industry and make their mark (literally).  The Star of Texas Tattoo Art Revival is an annual event in Austin, usually scheduled in January for one weekend.  Most years I manage to visit for one day, often on a run to score a deal on tattoo-ink sets and other supplies while checking out the latest innovations in the industry.  This year, one of my daughters gave me a weekend-pass as a Christmas present, so I will be going every day and taking in as many of the events as possible.


Brass Ovaries Pole Dancing
 I had the opportunity to speak to some folks on the street on the way to the convention each day I attended.  I found it interesting that even those that frequent the area around the Palmer Event Center, where the Star of Texas Tattoo Art Revival was being held, were not aware that a tattoo convention was happening.  Those I spoke with seemed even more surprised when I suggested that they should check it out.  The Star of Texas Tattoo Art Revival is for more than just tattooers and collectors.  Anyone interested in art and culture will find something worthwhile at the convention, and in my opinion it is as much a part of the Austin-Experience as a visit to Barton Springs.

 As the name implies, the convention's focus is on art. This includes not only the tattoos and the tattoo influenced art work, but also the entertainment arts which have a deep bond with the tattoo industry. Tattooing has long been a form of cultural expression just outside the mainstream, and as such has a historical connection with other forms of "low-brow" art; strip-tease, burlesque, and circus side-shows.  These three inter-related forms of entertainment shared a distinction of being of dubious repute; frowned upon by civic leaders while greatly enjoyed by the common man. Their "outsider" status gave the entertainers and performers of these art forms more freedom to be tattooed without any further social stigma, and getting a tattoo was often a sign of their commitment to the art form they practiced and the life-style those practices demanded.


Doubledown Dixie
 Tattooing has come a long way since the prohibition days, and because of the support shown to the tattoo industry in those times by other outside artists, the tattoo industry often favors these groups.  The evening show at the Star of Texas Tattoo Art Revival serves to underscore that deep bond.  Routinely hosted are side-show and carnival performers, exotic dancers, comedians, and magicians.  This year was no exception.  Each night closed with performances by Brass Ovaries Pole Dancing, a burlesque set by Doubledown Dixie, and a side-show performance by The Lizard Man.

 Unfortunately, the stage lighting was not conducive to my camera, so the images included here were borrowed from the web-pages of the performers.

 The two performers from Brass Ovaries Pole Dancing performed a beautiful and impressively athletic set of dances.  A portable pole was set-up on stage, and the girls provided amazing examples of aerial athleticism.  Brass Ovaries Pole Dancing offers training in their art to those seeking a distinctively different way to get in shape; regardless of age or gender.  They are also available to perform at parties and events, at an extremely affordable rate.

 There is something markedly refreshing about burlesque.  It is sensual, even sexual, but also tasteful, high-spirited, and irreverently innocent.  It always seems like burlesque dancers are having fun, and Doubledown Dixie epitomizes fun.  Curvy and energetic, Doubledown Dixie took the stage with a wink and mischievous smile.  Her dance routine was beautiful to behold, drawing in the crowd and making them root for more.  


The Lizardman
 Erik "The Lizard Man" Sprague was the act that I was really excited to see.  I am fascinated by the limits of the human body and the extremes we will often go to in order to express ourselves.  "Extreme" well-describes the Lizard Man.  The Lizard Man has spent around 700 hours under the needle having scales tattooed all over his body.  He has several piercings and has stretched his earlobes to allow him to lift weights and even pull cars with his ears.  He has subdermal implants over each of his eyes to form horned ridges, a bifurcated tongue, and has filed his teeth into fangs.

 He demonstrated these modifications, performed unique versions of traditional side-show stunts including the Human Blockhead, Sword Swallowing, and Plate Spinning (on a pin based in his nasal sinus).  He and his two assistants also engaged in an attempt at comedy. The banter had its moments, but I read that he leads a band and hope he fairs better as a musical performer.  Still, it was an amazing and entertaining performance.

 You will be hard-pressed to see another collection of entertainers like this anywhere but at a tattoo convention.

 In addition to the nightly show, there are daily tattoo contests.  These contests allow collectors to show off their tattoos and honor the artists behind them.  Each day, different categories are opened to convention-goers to enter.  A panel of three judges gauges the tattoos on their artistic merit, body placement, and technical quality.  During the day, the contests are open to only tattoos that have healed completely.  In the evening, the "Tattoo of the Day" contest is held, with tattoos done at the convention that day being entered and judged.  The winners receive a hand-made sculptural award and bragging rights.  

 As I stated, these contests are an excellent way to honor your tattoo artist.  Nothing says that you are proud of the work they have done more than being willing to show it off and have it judged.  A crowd gathers for each contest, allowing you to show your tattoo and let everyone know who you artist is.  Even if you do not win, it is a great tribute.

 The Star Of Texas Tattoo Art Revival should be on your Austin to-do list, as should be a visit to a convention in your area if you are not in Austin.  Not all art is in a gallery, and your patronage supports local artists and craftsmen, as well as exposes you to a cultural experience unlike any other.  I recommend selecting a day to check out the entire convention; from opening to close, and if you know an artist participating to show your support by paying them a visit or even getting some work done.  

 Jason Sorrell is a writer, tattoo artist, satirist, artist, and generally nice guy living in Austin, TX.  He loves answering questions about tattoos.  Shoot him an email at tattoonerdz@gmail.com.

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