The Nouvelle Ere Tattoo Show, taking place from May 25 to 27, 2018, is the perfect opportunity to discover and meet prolific and passionate tattoo artists. Over a hundred, from here and elsewhere, will reveal their arts and skills while tattooing on site. In order to introduce the attending tattoo artists, we have prepared a series of interviews.
Through this interview, Discover Em 16, a visual artist and her work. Besides having an awesome queer, anti-racist, body positive tattoo studio in Brooklyn, New York, find out a little more about the journey of this queer artist, tattooist slash part-time art teacher as well as her universe, a great mixture of art, feminism and activism. We really dig her artistic projects and the meaning behind.
TNE : Could you tell us a bit about yourself, what’s your story?
EN : I am a visual artist analyzing human form through large-scale immersive works on paper and performance. My practice explores the multiplicities of identity as developed within internal and external representation. I examine gender, race, and queerness through the lens of art. I adopt language and materials to each specific project, working both individually and collaboratively with other artists.
My recent collaboration Still Life/Still Alive with artist Awilda Rodríguez, serves to document matrilineal bloodlines via storytelling and tattooing. In an exchange of conversation and art-making, we honored our ancestors and questioned the temporality of art and life. Topics consist of reconceiving still-life, the body as a siphon for history, mapping POC and queer lineage, and the heritage of mental illness. This piece took place at SOHO20 Gallery and was broadcast live on Facebook.
My beach drawings and birth-centered paintings explore disappearing moments of connection as time and urban development shift queer spaces. I reinvent traditional artistic tropes of figurative painting morphing human form into a vessel for a narrative of an othered experience. These oversized two-dimensional works on paper are both reverent and challenging of classical painting.
I live and work in Brooklyn, NY. From 2003-2007, I founded and co-edited riffRAG, a queer, anti-racist, feminist art magazine, and curated related art exhibitions in New York City. My work has been exhibited in film festivals and galleries, including SOHO20, Leslie Lohman, Fountain Art Fair, Artists Space, Longwood Gallery, SF Arts Commission, Queens Museum of Art, New Fest, and Brooklyn Borough Hall. After retiring from 15 years as a graphic designer, I currently make artwork in my Brooklyn studio, teach courses at Parsons, and tattoo from my own feminist tattoo studio.
TNE : Which studio do you work at?
EN : I am the owner of The Scarlet Letter Social Club, a queer, anti-racist, body positive, feminist tattoo studio in Brooklyn, New York. I love owning my own studio and working with other amazing artists.
TNE : How long have you been tattooing for?
EN : Nine years.
TNE : At what point did you realize you wanted to be a professional tattooer?
EN : I wanted to be a professional tattooer when I was 18 attending art school at Parsons in New York City. The industry wasn't really open to women and queer folks. I asked around about getting an apprenticeship but was constantly told "not everyone can do it", "just because you're in art school doesn't mean you could be a good tattooer". It wasn't until I graduated from my MFA at the age of 30 that someone offered to teach me! In between I held all sorts of positions to support myself as an artist--case worker after 9/11, graphic designers, project manager. Office life wasn't really for me and I feel so grateful to finally have a career where I can combine my two loves: working with people and drawing.
TNE : How would you describe your style? Can you tell us about your main Influences? (Tattoo artists and more)
EN : Blackwork. I'm influenced by zines that I grew up making, woodcut, and etching in my tattoo work. For my fine arts work, I love working in graphite but have been recently working with more color.
TNE : Can you recall what it was that drew you to this specific style?
EN : It was really just where I was strongest. For my first 4 years of tattooing I focused on a painterly color style. I kept being told that my blackwork was stronger, then blackwork became really big in New York City, so I just sort of fell into it. Now I love it because it's so much about the quality of the line and drawing! I don't think I'd go back to being a color artist at this point, though I dabble with color now and then.
TNE : If you weren't a tattoo artist, what would you be doing professionally?
EN : Teaching. I teach part-time at Parsons, but it's not really sustainable for covering my expenses in New York City. If there comes a point that I can't tattoo anymore, I will probably apply to be a full-time professor.
TNE : What is the ultimate goal you have set for yourself regarding your career?
EN : Continue to have a career that supports my art making and reinvents the tattoo world to being more open to POC, queer folks, and women.