A Week in Tattoo Art: @hardworldpiglet
By no means experts in the ancient tradition of tattooage, we have never-the-less selected some of our favorite artists working with the medium at the moment. This week, we highlight a handful of the many talents making work at the intersection of visual art and body modification. Check back daily to see tattoo and flash works from artists turning their untraditional designs into eternal mementos.
Photo by client Lauren Shaffer
Where are you from and what do you do?
My name is Keke Hunt. I’m an interdisciplinary artist. The past couple years I’ve spent alot of time working on tattooing and electronic music projects. My tattoo project is called You and I Must Butterfly and I currently release music under the name Just the Right Height.
How did you get into tattoo art?
I was thinking about it for a while before I started tattooing. I had alot of friends who had done their own beautiful non-traditional tattoos. There was a range of textures and approaches that I was seeing in self-taught tattoo that was totally unexplored in traditional/professional tattooing. Initially, I planned to use tattooing as a part of a performance practice, which was my focus in undergrad. But over the years since I started tattooing I gradually got more interested in learning the technique and history and especially expanding on non-traditional textures and techniques.
What was your first tattoo?
I gave myself a stick and poke as a teenager after reading a magazine about how to do stick and poke. I covered up the tattoo in my early 20’s and its not worth mentioning what it was. I started getting machine tattoos when I was 20 or 21 at some shops in my neighborhood in San Francisco. As far as learning to tattoo myself, I jumped straight in with machine tattoos doing my first tattoos in 2011 and only do stick and poke for details and texture at this point.
Do you tattoo your own body? If yes, what tattoos have you given yourself?
No, I don’t tattoo my own body. Tattooing takes alot of focus and mental energy, I’d prefer to just experience the pain when I’m getting tattooed.
Photo by client Caley Feeney
Do you have any tattoos you regret? Are there any tattoos you regret giving?
I think most people who have 20 plus tattoos like I do have complex feelings about them. Regret doesn’t really describe those feelings for me. My own tattoos are a long term project that I will add to, edit, and work on over the course of my life. That approach is something I anticipated taking from the beginning. Some of my favorite tattoos are layered and composited tattoos incorporating the hand of different artist sometimes years apart. So for me with a tattoo that doesn’t feel right or fully finished there’s often room to work back into it. I’ve done some layered tattoos on clients this year that came out really cool.
What is it about tattooing that appeals over other forms of visual art?
I like that it’s collaborative and defined by your audience. At least the way I approach it, my growth as a tattooer is directed by the ideas my clients bring in and the opportunities they give me. So I can be really hardworking and talented but the work can only exist if people want to be a part of it.
Do you consider your work to be political?
Tattooing is not political in my opinion but non-traditional tattooing like what I do is much more political. When I was growing up getting tattooed signified non-conformity and that you were an outsider. It means a really different thing now. Like a lot subcultural styles what once existed on the fringes have begun signifying conformity and a lack of personal vision. I love the history and I have alot of respect for people who are trained in a traditional way. I think it’s super interesting how limited the documented history of American tattooing is. There a lot of room to experiment and break the rules as far as technique and style. In my experience, for every person who is inspired to innovate when they see someone trying new things there is an equal number of people who want to protect and police the tradition.
Are there any themes you work with regularly, if yes, what are they?
My flash is mostly based on a practice of image collecting where I am mining ambient visual excess. The custom stuff I’ve been doing lately has tended to be strictly decorative: jewelry pieces, floral adornments, pieces using pattern and repetitions and tattoos where I focus on doing alot of detail with the color. I think a good tattoo speaks for itself so I try to choose images that have depth but don’t need to be explained. Certainly themes emerge when you look at my flash sheets though.
Are there any artists or movements now or in the history of tattooing that inspire you?
When I first got into tattooing i was really into Charlie Cartwright
and Jack Rudy
. My friend recently me on to Greg Kulz and biomech stuff which I’m really obsessed with. I also recently got into Sailor Jerry flash which I am finally starting to understand. I find that stuff really interesting now that I have been tattooing for a while. As far as current stuff, my favorite tattooers are self taught and their focus is really non-traditional. I really like my friend Xena’s work (#zxdmtats
), Evan Hill and Bridget Mcenerney