Tattoos have a long and storied history, fraught with infamy and stigmas. Today, however — especially for the younger generations — tattooing is easily considered an art form on its own. Entire Instagram accounts, Pinterest boards, Reddit threads and other databases catalog the unique designs of tattoo artists all over the world, upping the creative ante of tattoos across the board. Brooklyn-based artist Amanda Wachob took the art of tattooing in an entirely new direction in the last 10 years, pioneering a technique that has now become known as watercolor tattoos. Through her innovative approach and artistic spirit, Wachob may have irreversibly changed the conception that tattoos are something separate and distinct from gallery or museum-quality contemporary art.

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In her new solo museum show Tattoo This, on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Denver until May 26, Wachob showcases photographs of tattoos she has created, the paintings that inspired tattoos and other pieces of work using the tattoo gun and ink. The main idea behind Tattoo This is that tattoos can inspire art on the walls and art on the walls can inspire tattoos. For the next week, Wachob will tattoo live inside her exhibition space at the MCA. In total, Wachob will tattoo 11 people — all of whom managed to secure their spot within the first six minutes that applications were open on Wachob’s website. The tattoo chair is positioned in one of the galleries, surrounded by large-format art by Wachob — where she used tattoo ink pressed between sheets of paper, photographed the mixture of inks and transferred that image onto canvas.

There are subtleties throughout Tattoo This that convey the evolution of Wachob’s desire to translate between canvas and skin, as well as her experimentation with process and style. Wachob’s tattoo designs went viral in the mid-2000s, showing ethereal and colorful tattoos that appeared to be painted onto the skin. Wachob knew she was trying something novel in the tattoo world, and was lucky to have willing participants for her first attempts. After she started mastering her watercolor technique, photos of her designs flooded the web, leading to other artists learning her style and replicating it.

The exhibit at MCA. Photo by Cori Anderson.

As the MCA’s website states, “All of the tattooing slots have been filled so no, you can’t get a tattoo, but yes, you can watch her work.” The full schedule of each time when Wachob will begin a new tattoo session is below.

Friday, February 15 at 1 and 4:30 p.m.

Saturday, February 16 at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Sunday, February 17 at 11 a.m and 2:30 p.m.

Tuesday, February 19 at 1 and 4:30 p.m.

Wednesday, February 20 at 1 and 4:30 p.m.

Thursday, February 21 at 1 and 4:30 p.m.

For more information, go here. Tattoo This is included in regular museum admission, as are the live tattoo demonstrations. The MCA is located at 1485 Delgany Street, Denver.  

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