What Happens When You Get A Blind Tattoo From Scott Campbell
Scott Campbell has been in the Milk Gallery for the past two days, doing blind tattooing as part of his installation Whole Glory. As of press time, he’s on his eleventh one. The tattoos have all been beautiful, extremely detailed, and done in the classic Campbell style: there are skulls, cobwebs, intricate geometric designs, heavily-lidded eyes. The clients all walk away overjoyed and a little bit stunned, staring at their tattoos like they can’t believe what just happened.
We spoke to Tattoo #10, Pier A events manager Alex von Pfeiffer, soon after he’d finished. Von Pfieffer’s tattoo is mesmerizing: a skull done in a segmented diamond, with lines smaller and more intricate than any tattoo we’ve ever seen before. It’s his first tattoo, and he was quite happy with it. “It was just one of those things where I’ve always wanted to get a tattoo, but never had time or money,” he said. “I never even really had a design. All I knew is that I wanted someone good to do it. So I saw the article the other day and figured I’d come and try.”
Von Pfieffer had entered the tattoo lottery just five minutes before he was selected. He’d come with his adorable toddler, Camden, who smiled happily when I asked if he liked his dad’s tattoo. “I’ve been in New York for only about a year and a half,” said von Pfieffer. “It’s been full of days like this. I think this is the craziest so far.”
Next up was Steve Ali, a second-year student at Columbia. Ali found out about Whole Glory this morning while he was running late for his internship. “I read the New York Times article, and and found out how it’s all about taking away the expectations that come from making this kind of collaborative art,” he said. He decided to go for it. Like von Pfeiffer, this is his first tattoo.
Ali’s arms are heavily scarred. “I liked the idea of literally being the canvas,” he said. “Unlike a lot of people, I’ve got these big burn scars on my arms. And so I’m not talking to [Scott] but in a lot of ways there’s still a conversation happening. Instead of me saying what I want, you have to look at my skin and realize that there’s already something there. You have to work around it.”
“It’s me putting myself in the situation as a guinea pig, as a tool for experimentation, when an artist has to confront something that maybe they weren’t expecting. It’s a variable that they may not have controlled for, that somebody would come in here with scars.”
Ali wasn’t scared. “Anxious,” he said. “Maybe paralyzed.” We’re sure Campbell will do right by him.
Whole Glory will be open to the public at from November 12-15 at the Milk Gallery, 450 West 15th Street. Tattoo recipients are selected via two lotteries that take place at 10 AM and 2:45 PM. Stay tuned for more coverage.
All photography by Scott Campbell.