I left the gallery wearing a brand new pair of fuck me pumps. Not on my feet, though, as the song might suggest, but freshly inked and still bleeding. On a Saturday night in Brooklyn, I went into an art show and left with a tattoo.
Architect and designer Michael Yarinsky knows a thing or two about tattoos. Side by side at the opening of Flash Me, his ongoing group show of tattoo flash-style art, he tells me he's having trouble deciding which one he wants. That's because, through a network of friends and acquaintances, the Cooler Gallery founder and curator tasked 23 artists to develop their own flash sheets, arrays of pre-made tattoos that make the design job easier for artists and that much more risky for impulse inkheads like myself. The real challenge, as the gallery quickly filled up with goers looking to get a new, artist-designed piece, was deciding what to get.
He settles on a small piece by Camilla Engstrom, an artist best known amongst internet style circles for her cheerfully drawn naked ladies. Cooler Gallery will be showcasing works by Engstrom—who happens to have zero tattoos herself—later this year, and Yarinsky's new black line tattoo is about as clear a commitment to her work as it gets.
For my part, I opted for the only color option available: two blood red shoes by Cooler Gallery alum, Kate Hush. I dedicate the new tattoo to the Michael Powell film, and then to Winehouse. Later, in my own head, it's a tribute to sordid women. Then I trace my inspiration back to the fact that I've been listening to a lot of Sade recently, and it's fitting in a neon-lit 90s tropical cocktail bar kind of way. Finally, I remember: it's just a flash tattoo. Who cares, anyway?
So as the music rises inside the Madera design showroom-turned-gallery, Yarinsky and I sit side by side as artists Sara Antoinette Martin and Gabriel Pantoja, from Brooklyn Tattoo, ready their inks and needles. Everyone is watching, which Martin admits isn't her preferred forum for working. She tells me, "It's hard when people are hovering," but it cloaks both the show and the available body art options a kind of silent reverie. Art shows are supposed to give you something, and not only do I literally feel this one, I exit with a piece.
Flash Me isn't just a great show because it engages directly with what is perhaps one of the fastest growing art trends of the century, but because it encouraged everyone involved to step outside their comfort zones. From the artists, most of them working in an entirely new medium, to the audience, anxiously awaiting a public poking, it signals a move towards truly interactive art and unabashed body ownership.
Flash Me runs through February 24 at Cooler Gallery, 22 Waverly Ave in Brooklyn.