Ink City

Portland's tattoo culture gets artful treatment
Portland's tattoo culture gets artful treatment
The remarkable body of Portlander Matt Gone, described in "Ink-Stained Wretch," Willamette Week's cover story has become art history.

As WW puts it, Gone considers himself "an artist whose work is inked across his entire body." Now art patrons will have a chance to evaluate this medium more fully, during this summer's Portland Ink events: films, demonstrations, exhibits and a photo project linked to Portland Art Museum's event, "Marking Portland: The Art of Tattoo."

Gone, now 38, started tattooing at age 14. The canvas that is his body has been gaining ink steadily. Only his hands and gums are blank.

There's been a lot of writing about tat culture, and theories abound on why it is so popular now. For Gone, it isn't hard to figure. As he told WW, his poor health made him loathe his body; ink redeems it. He has a rare condition called Poland'ꀙs syndrome, with chronic pain on one side of his body. He is also missing a kidney, a discovery he did not make until recently, due to years without health care, he says.

This ink fest reaches far beyond Portland. The museum will be pulling images off a Flickr page that's soliciting tat photos, and displaying them alongside other relevant works from its collection.

"Portland Ink" is also inspiring some fine blogging and reporting over at the Oregonian by reporter Inara Verzemnieks. A sample:

Sometimes the city feels like a walking fever dream that way, the visions that appear to you on random arms and necks and backs and legs and hands: All the skulls and swallows. The pomegranates and post-apocalyptic cityscapes. Spider webs. Our Lady of Guadalupe. L-O-V-E. H-A-T-E. Roses, with and without thorns. Carp. Eviscerated horses. Octopuses. Mermaids. Smiling Rottweilers.

Portland may or may not deserve its claim of being America's Most Tattooed City. But, from now through Sept. 6, it's the City That Respects Ink.


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