Lewis Ink, Sailor Jerry Turns 100

A recent obsession of mine with everything tattooed may be due to a midlife crisis, but if you do the math that means I’m going to live until 114. Anyway, I had my midlife crisis in ’87, and then that other one in ’96, and then there was that recent 3-year relationship with that 19 year old which in all fairness isn’t as bad as it sounds, as she eventually became 22. No, my tattoo thing is most likely due to my constant trips to Williamsburg. It’s as if you can’t rent a flat out there without a serious sleeve. My good neighbor Dana Dynamite, ex-Ben Sherman and more recently Carrera Sunglasses, is pushing Sailor Jerry. There actually was a Sailor Jerry and I have this DVD to prove it. Turns out he was an even surlier old cuss than I suspected, with political views slightly to the right of Attila the Hun. Jerry has passed on. He would have been a hundred this year. He leaves behind his art which adorns the tilted masses and will for generations. So in celebration of the old swabby’s birthday, they’re having events and such. Most notably is the “Sailor Jerry 2011 Calendar Contest: The Search for the Hottest Tattooed Women in the World.” Now that sounds like a typical Saturday night for me (before I met my lovely Amanda).

I do not have a tattoo. I will get one, but have sworn that my first ink will be an image of my bestest friend ever, my Chihuahua Arturo. It will be over my heart where he will always be. Arturo turned 16 yesterday and is as feisty as ever. When people applied for work when I ran joints, final approval came from him. If he didn’t like you, you didn’t have a chance. Once, I didn’t bring him to work because of inclement weather, and I hired a lovely gal. All week the rest of the staff asked me, “Did Arturo meet her?” I said, “No, it rained and he was home and I did it on my own.” They tsk-tsk’d me and walked away upset. The poor girl only lasted a week. Much of the staff from that era are still best friends. They are my clan and are having babies and BBQs now, and all had the Arturo snarl of approval. Inclement weather kept me away from the Sailor Jerry film screening in BK last week. The rain had them retreat to All Saints Pub where they partook in a Sailor Jerry Rum concoction appropriately named “The Perfect Storm”. If you missed this soiree, don’t panic. There will be another aug 7th. Check their website for info.

I miss more events than I make as that cloning thing isn’t nearly perfected. I missed another tattoo event—an opening of art by tattoo artists at the P.J.S. Exhibitions Gallery on 14th Street. The gallery is just east of the Darby and Snap, the two joints my firm is designing on 14th Street and 8th Avenue. That little area is on the upswing, with Norwood right across the street and lots of hip new restaurants nearby as well as some fabulous new residentials. The show is called “Metanoia” and it features the works of really awesome New York-based tattoo artists Chris O’Donnell (New York Adorned), Jason June (Daredevil), Josh Egnew (Three Kings), Ryan Bonilla (Bellum Concepts), Stephanie Tamez (Brooklyn Adorned) and Thomas Hooper (New York Adorned). I caught up with P.J.S./Metanoia honchos Patrick Sullivan and Bevin Robinson and asked them about the show, tattoos and the changing landscape of the area.

What is the relationship between tattooing and creating other works of visual art for these artists? Do they get a different sense of release depending on whether they’re painting or tattooing? BR: The relationship between tattooing and creating other works of visual art for these artists is expression. We do not believe the artists get a different sense of release, but in terms of personalization, they have no boundaries in creating their own art. As with tattooing, they are working in a specific framework of imagination and space on the human body, the medium, which is skin and ink.

How did you choose this location for the gallery? With a lack of artistic developments in that area, does the neighborhood affect the gallery? How is the sense of community? PS: I have lived in the neighborhood for over 10 years and embrace the sense of community. In fact, I am trying to make sure that it stays. There are a lot of Irish bars and erotic shops and I don’t want to see them go. I don’t want to be the only gallery in the neighborhood, but I do want everyone to know who we are and what we are about. BR: 14th Street is a central area for cultural diversity, while still retaining a feeling of neighborhood vibe as you go from east to west. I believe that this is one of the few art galleries on 14th St., and therefore there is an undiscovered demand for something to get people to think, experience, and socialize.

Why and how did you select these particular artists and this theme for a show? How do you know Bevin Robinson and why did you guys decide to co-curate the show? PS: Bevin and I have known each other for a few years. Growing up in the neighborhoods and environments that we both did, everyone knows everybody. Bevin presented the idea of Metanoia to me a while back and once we both had the chance to put all of our efforts into it, we did. First, we contacted Thomas Hooper, Stephanie Tamez, and Chris O’Donnell at Brooklyn Adorned. Then after some searching for other artists that would represent the show well, a friend introduced us to Jason June and Josh Egnew. Ryan Bonilla, a long time friend of mine, was all we needed to complete the show. BR: The name all of the show represents the general idea and theme of the show; Meta means “after” or “beyond” and noia is a condition of the mind or will. These artists all represent this experience in their art-making process. Beyond the will of the minds’ conditioning, their training, busy tattoo schedules and success also holds them back from having time to make new art.

What is your vision for the gallery in terms of the art you want to see displayed and your goals for curating? PS: I always want to be able to enjoy what I have on my walls. Not hanging anything because it will fetch a pretty penny, but being proud of all of my hard work and efforts. BR: Love. Love for art, people, and process.

Any funny or interesting anecdotes since opening the space? BR: I almost tipped the motorcycle in the window. Since the opening, Shiva (gallery dog) has upgraded from a floor mat to a plush Polka dot love seat. She definitely earned it for being moral support.

Has tattooing moved into the mainstream in a generation? Is the work shown in a gallery setting a natural progression of the art? PR: I don’t think so. The work on the walls is unique and thus stands alone. Yes, more people are getting ink, but this show is no way a representation of that.

14th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues has been somewhat seedy for many years. Norwood has brought in some class and Honey some yuppies. Now the addition of the new restaurant The Darby in the Nell’s space, and the high-end sports bar Snap where Country Club was, will transform the west side of the block. Will we see new galleries and shops? Is this heaven-sent for your gallery? BR: I am happy to have Norwood, Honey, The Darby, and Snap all on our block. I am also happy to have McKenna’s, Woody McHale’s, The Crooked Knife, and Flannery’s. There have always been clubs and clubbers on the block and we are used to it. But with such a broad spectrum of establishments, it is sure to make for some fun!

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