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Turning Tattoos Into Fine Art

Most people don’t associate tattoos with fine art. But as more art school graduates end up in tattoo shops, the body art is increasingly influenced by artists from Jackson Pollock to Helen Frankenthaler.

Amanda Wachob received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from SUNY Purchase and she creates abstract tattoos in her Brooklyn studio. She got into tattoos after she started thinking about how art is influenced by its surface. She specifically wondered whether abstract expressionist Hans Hofmann’s squares and rectangles would take different forms on a more rounded surface.

“Then it dawned on me that maybe that was something I could explore with tattooing,” Wachob told Here & Now‘s Robin Young.

Wachob’s tattoos have an unusual brush-stroked effect, with ink spills and ink swirls. But she says that typical tattoos, like skulls and daggers, are still popular.

“The traditional American tattoo look is also still going strong and very popular and very classic,” she said.

Paul Nathan, a photographer in Williamsburg, N.Y., whose recent book, “Generation Ink,” documents the explosion of tattoo styles, says that tattoos are not as rebellious as in earlier times.

“It’s not like it used to be. It’s no longer a limitation. You’re kind of an outsider if you’re not tattooed in creative industries,” he said. “There’s a few people in our neighborhood who have tattoos on their cheeks. I think that’s probably the next thing.”

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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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