Meet the parents. (sandicalistroart.com)

The fine art of getting inked

a/Arts & Entertainment by

With the increasing popularity of tattoos, they have gained recognition as one of today’s more overt expressions of personality. Tattoos are no longer largely perceived as symbols of dissent and delinquency; a contemporary view of them now leans closer towards a holistic understanding of these designs as visual art.

Breaking away from stereotypes of skulls and barbed wire, more varied tattoos have skyrocketed in popularity. The human skin is now ‘the new flesh’ for tattoo artists such as Sandi Calistro, a Denver-based artist participating in Montreal’s annual Art Tattoo Show. In Calistro’s opinion, there may be a number of explanations for the rise in popularity of tattoos.

“Maybe when it initially started, it was more sailors tattooing,” Calisto says. “When I was getting into it, the tattooists I knew were art students; the new generation that started tattooing brought a different style to the table […] but I think it really exploded when they started the reality TV shows [like L.A. Ink and Tattoo Rescue]. Because then people saw that tattoo shops weren’t scary to go into […] They [were] creating crazy art pieces; [people] didn’t know tattoos could look like that.”

Unlike attending a gallery showing, getting tattooed is not a passive visual experience; it is a shared encounter between two people. Calistro explains:

“It is a really intimate experience. The person is putting a lot of trust in you and they are kind of in a vulnerable situation because you’re inflicting pain […] they open up to you quite a bit. For some people it is therapeutic. There’s something about it that’s a release.”

In return, an artist will imprint a little bit of themselves in their work; during the short time the service is being rendered, it is a truly symbiotic relationship.

Where some find a sense of therapy in receiving a tattoo, others definitely feel the pain that comes with getting a valued piece of work. “For me, it’s quite painful,” Calistro describes. “Tattoos hurt for sure, but it’s kind of like a rite of passage that way. You go through the pain of the tattoo and you kind of feel like

you’ve conquered something by doing it.”

In recent years, tattoos have grown in popularity with women. Once deemed more appropriate for a masculine crowd, body art has been readily welcomed by a female clientele. With an increasing demand for more feminine elements, a new generation of female artists has emerged. Calistro’s work has dutifully catered to the growing call for feminine art. Her work surpasses the simple objectification of the female, drawing inspiration from contemporary artists like Frida Kahlo.

Calistro is a familiar face at the Montreal Art Tattoo Show.

“A friend that did the convention and invited me to come – that’s how I got involved in it. Montreal is my favourite because first of all, you get to experience the city as well as the convention. The convention is put together perfectly— the artists are all really good and everyone that runs the convention is super friendly and makes you feel super at home like family. It’s my favourite.”

Calistro describes the experience of getting a tattoo at a convention versus a studio: “The atmosphere is extremely different; for the client it might be better because they have all of these distractions— basically, [for the] people watching— it’s like this over-stimulation that can help with the pain.”

Whether you are looking to get your first ‘tat’ or add to your collection, the convention will feature over 100 artists from around the world and right here in Quebec. As a veteran of the convention, Calistro reassures that, “if you are looking to get a tattoo, you will find every style you can imagine. If you were ever contemplating a tattoo, you would find what you were looking for there. There’s going to be a lot of artwork to look at.”

The convention runs from Friday, Sept. 6 to Sunday, Sept. 8. Tickets are available for purchase at the door at Windsor Station.

Find more information at http://www.arttattoomontreal.com.