For many, the reason for getting a tattoo is deeply personal, but sought-after tattoo artist Amanda Wachob makes her most personal work on fruit for her own reasons. Wachob is known for her creative approach to tattooing, including her ability to create imagery reminiscent of watercolor paintings and abstract expressionism. But, Wachob tells The Creators Project that her artwork involves much more than just embedding ink in human skin. “Everything I do in my practice is to push the boundaries of tattooing. Whether it’s working on different surfaces, exploring unusual concepts that involve tattooing, or coming up with unconventional imagery for skin. Tattooing can be used to make statements about the world.”
According to Wachob, the original tattoo machine was invented for an entirely different purpose than the one it ended up being used for, and this history informs her approach to making work. “In 1875 Thomas Edison invented an “electric pen,” a printing pen used to make copies of drawings and documents. In 1891, tattoo artist Samuel O’Reilly repurposed it for tattooing. But the fact that a tattoo machine was originally a marking device, or a tool with which to make marks, has always stuck with me.”
In addition to human skin, the materials that Wachob works with include: oranges, pomegranates, lemons, leather, and canvases. Each of these surfaces gives her the opportunity to approach the process of mark making from a different perspective. “When I’m working on skin, I have to be very controlled and precise in my actions but when I work on other surfaces like fruit or leather, I have so much more freedom with the kind of gestural marks that I can make. I don’t have to worry about scaring fruit.” So, not only does Wachob not have to worry about hurting the fruit she tattoos, she doesn’t have to worry how the fruit will feel about what she tattoos onto it either.
Working with inanimate objects, like lemons, frees Wachob up to do things that are more conceptual and personally meaningful to her. “I kept on thinking about how bitter their flavor is, but yet they are extremely nourishing. These last few years have been personally challenging and I think there is an intimate parallel between some of the bitter experiences in life, which in the end, can actually put you on a path towards health and personal growth. The imagery and words I choose speak directly about a lot of the things I was going through and feeling at the time.” One of these tattooed lemons features just one word, which at first glance appears to read “tryst,” meaning an agreement between lovers to meet. The work is actually called “trust,” and upon closer inspection, it does spell out the word “trust,” but with a roman numeral “v” with a perpendicular line beneath it in place of the letter “u.” The relationship that the words “trust” and “tryst” might share, along with the materials and process used to make the work, certainly enriches the work with conceptual meaning.
Wachob has performed tattooed works at impressive venues, likeThe New Museum and The Museum of Arts and Design, but recently she’s been showing the more personal work that she makes with fruit. “The Scratch series of oranges toured Australia last year in an exhibit called A Permanent Mark... and there is a huge tattoo show at the New York Historical Society in February 2017 and few of the lemons will be on display.”
Amanda Wachob isn’t taking new clients, but keep your eye out for her upcoming collaboration with conceptual artist Mary Ellen Carroll called HOLÉ, in which she will give tattoos to participants in order to cover the skin exposed by holes in clothing. More info is on her website and Instagram.