Woodstock, NY
September 17, 18, 19, 2004

An eyewitness report by GEORGE PETROS

Welcome to the Second Annual Woodstock Tattoo and Body Arts Festival, produced by Bruce Bart and Curse Mackey! For a glorious weekend in September, thousands of tattooists, musicians, hipsters, bikers and babes roam the streets of this historic hot-spot. According to Curse, “This is the strategic gathering of the tattooing elite. And, it’s the biggest and best show of alternative/modern primitive/Lowbrow art. It’s an incredible cultural event.”

Although tattooing dominates the festival’s hype, it’s the various art shows that will titillate Juxtapoz readers. “War & Peace: The Art Of Propaganda,” at the Woodstock Gallery of Art, curated by Erik Foss, Les Barany, Bart and Mackey, presents powerful images of a world in upheaval. Shepard Fairey, John John Jesse, Glen Barr, Mark Mothersbaugh, Eric White, Winston Smith, Van Arno, David Schwartz and others pull no punches in conveying the current era’s anxieties. Erik Foss, one of the proprietors of NYC’s Fuse Gallery, tells us: “This show gives artists a chance to express political views. Tattoo and Lowbrow artists are often considered freaks, but this reminds everybody that they have a message that’s strong and sincere.”

Another Foss/Barany presentation, “The Explosive Art Exhibition,” hangs at the Fletcher Gallery with the lengthy subtitle, “Is it Lowbrow? Pop? Surrealism? Neo-psychedelia? Visionary? Regardless of what it’s called, today's Modern Artists are forging a new and exciting chapter in art history.” Participants include Nick Zinner (guitarist of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Steven Cerio, Doze Green, Rich Jacobsen, H.R. Giger, Joe Coleman, Frank Kozik, S. Clay Wilson, Skot Olsen, Sas Christian, J.K. Potter, Eric Hammer, David Hochbaum and a host of others.

Mike Bellamy and Sean Vasquez curate “Blessed & Blasphemous” at the Varga Gallery. Focusing on religious imagery, this show redefines Sacred Art. Contributors include Robert Craig, Jason D’Aquino, Les Barany, and Ophelia Tzighan. “Artists Who Also Tattoo,” at the Colony Art Gallery, demonstrates the fact that today's tattooists are also fine artists, but much of their best work is unframable. Skin legend Spider Webb’s “9/11: The Art Of Terror” hangs at the Town Hall Gallery. An amazing array of flash art inspired by the events of 9/11, the exhibition, running here for the second year, is awesome.

Agent Les Barany tells us, “This festival is one of the most important alternative art venues on the East Coast, and it deserves everyone’s support. I must commend the great job Bruce and Curse did by staging five concurrent art exhibitions featuring the work of more than 150 artists, merely as a sideshow to the tattoo festival. It’s an insane undertaking.”

Perhaps the hottest ticket in town is the epoch-defining “Rides Of Passage,” curated by Crash, Bart, Mackey and Bellamy. Burton Snowboards provided 120 blank boards to some of the hottest artists including Don Ed Hardy, Filip Leu, Futura, Paco Excel, Aaron Cain and Adrian Lee. Witnessing this show gives one a glimpse into a future wherein Lowbrow and tattoo forms morph into a modern pop style. You saw it here first!

The Festival presents films (Forbidden Photographs by Charles Gatewood, R.I.P. by Joe Coleman, Dislandia by Brian Viveros et cetera), performances by Murphy’s Law and DJ Steven Blush’s New York City Rock N Roll bands (Pisser, SuperVillian, Grounded et cetera), and tattoo contests (one of which awards a fabulous Giger sculpture, Tattoo Biomechanoid).

And so on, as the crowd grooves for three fantastic days. But, like all things, the Festival must end. Sunday night rolls around; in a final puff of smoke it’s all over. How did it go? Tom from Catskill Mountain Pizza says, “Yesterday was our busiest day ever for burgers and beer.” See ya next year!