Artist Spotlight: Amanda Wachob

Photo credit: Maddy Halpern

Abigail Ogilvy Gallery recently interviewed contemporary tattoo artist Amanda Wachob to hear more about what inspires her to create such innovative works. Wachob has done projects with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New Museum, the Museum of Arts and Design, The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, and The Whitney. Pioneering the watercolor tattoo movement and actively bridging the gap between tattooing and fine art, she has been named one of the 50 most creative people in the world by AdAge.

Abigail Ogilvy Gallery: How has your background in photography and the fine arts affected your current practice?

Amanda Wachob: Art has always been something I've gravitated towards since I was very small. It feels like I've just always known that I would be an artist. Even though I'm not working professionally as a photographer, photography has really influenced so much of my practice. The canvases I'm currently working on are even photo-based. Having knowledge of lighting and composition, has helped strengthen my work because I can document everything properly.

AOG: How has the medium of tattooing influenced your ability to break barriers in contemporary art?

AW: There is so much that hasn't been explored in terms of tattooing as a medium, its conceptual potential and potential for art making. Tattooing hasn't really been looked at as an art form, so it's still possible to uncover new ideas. And this is what really drives my work. The thought of making a new discovery, within a very very old practice. (Tattooing has been documented back 5,000 years!).

AOG: What are your main sources of inspiration?

AW: Books, galleries, traveling, the internet, the NYC subway system/NYC in general, and being around other creatives and talking shop and bouncing ideas around.

AOG: How does your creative process differ when you’re working with a tattoo client versus a blank canvas? 

Amanda Wachob,  Weather Systems;  Tattoo ink and temporary tattoo paper on canvas, 40 x 30 in., 2019; On view in PICNIC at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery June-August 2019

Amanda Wachob, Weather Systems; Tattoo ink and temporary tattoo paper on canvas, 40 x 30 in., 2019; On view in PICNIC at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery June-August 2019

AW: I think of my clients as collaborators. We work on an idea together. With my canvases though, I'm just a quiet observer. When I'm pressing tattoo ink and making impressions, I'm patiently waiting for the image to reveal itself to me.

AOG: Many of your projects involve innovating the use of museum space; how do you think museums should adapt to reflect the modern audience?

AW: I've tattooed in a lot of different environments; a basement in Chinatown, a bong shop, at a restaurant in Ho Chi Min City, tattoo conventions and tattoo shops, I've been a kitchen magician and I've tattooed in five or six museums. Museums can be a wonderful way to educate people about tattooing. Often times the only way you can actually watch a tattoo being done, is by getting one. But in a public space, it feels more like an interactive performance. People can watch...can ask questions, and can see that the process isn't that scary or intimidating at all. It's actually quite fascinating.

AOG: How do you view the concept of permanence, in tattooing and in general?

AW: Ephemerality is a reoccurring theme. Tattooing is actually an impermanent, permanent mark. As soon as the ink goes into our skin, our white blood cells attack the ink and start to carry some of it away. Over time, the ink blurs and fades, there may always be some evidence of it, but it changes and ages, it doesn't stay the same. The only thing we can really count on in our lives, is that things will change.

AOG: What projects are you currently working on?

AW: I'm working on a new series of canvases for an upcoming solo show at Anna Kaplan Contemporary this fall, and prepping for a lecture at the Beaux-Arts this winter! Getting ready to do a little tattoo traveling as well.

View Amanda Wachob’s work at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery on view through August 18th, 2019.

Blog credit: Sigourney Schultz, August 2019