Show some skin: ‘Live’ tattoo shows at Bushwick Open Studios

Ink master: Ryan MacGibbon will tattoo “live” in front of gawking onlookers as part of Bushwick Open Studios.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Call it tattoo performance art.

From May 30–June 1, artists across Bushwick will open their doors and share their work with the general public as part of the Bushwick Open Studios festival. And for several neighborhood tattoo artists, that means offering gawkers the chance to watch them put ink to skin — or even become a human canvas themselves.

One of the dermis decorators said working “live” in front of an audience is a big departure from the typical tattooing experience.

“Often, there can be a guest, a supportive onlooker. However, focus is mainly between the person tattooing and the client — the number of observers is secondary in that moment. They serve to cap the ritual, acknowledging the transformation of the person,” said Ryan MacGibbon of MacGibbon Tattoo on Troutman Street near Wyckoff Avenue. “In ‘live’ tattooing, this is instantaneous.”

MacGibbon, who has done live tattooing at Bushwick Open Studios for the past two years, will be offering Japanese irezumi tattoos as well as traditional Americana designs — think tigers wrestling snakes and soaring dragons.

He will be tattooing just one person each day of the event.

“I like to keep more time open to talk with people,” said MacGibbon.

On the other end of the productivity scale, over at Meattt, Inc. on Noll Street near Flushing Avenue, Marina Heintze will be attempting to permanently print on 20 or more people per day. Heintze, who has honed her live tattooing skills at festivals, said preparing for the workload is a fine art.

“My game plan consists of having everything strategically laid out and organized many weeks in advance, such as materials, supplies, etc.,” said Heintze.

Meattt, Inc. will also streamline the process with a restaurant-style sign-up sheet, where those itching to get inked can leave their name, number, and tattoo order, so the studio can call when their needle comes up. Heintze plans on drawing up a special flash sheet of red and black designs for customers to choose from, all in her own unique flavor.

“The style is traditional, bold, funky, and weird,” she said.

And skin art will even be on display outside of traditional parlors during the three-day Bushwick bacchanal — Sets and Effects, a movie set-making studio on Dekalb Avenue near Evergreen Avenue, will host a party on May 30 featuring bands, free booze, and live tattooing from artist Big Egypt.

Meattt, Inc. (184 Noll St. near Flushing Avenue in Bushwick, www.meatttinc.com); MacGibbon Tattoo (385 Troutman St. #103 near Wyckoff Avenue in Bushwick, www.macgibbontattoo.com).

“11 Artists” opening party at Sets and Effects [1239 Dekalb Ave. near Evergreen Avenue in Bushwick, 11artists.tumblr.com]. May 30 at 7 pm. Free entry.

Like a tiger: Bushwick tattoo artist Ryan MacGibbon is known for his Japanese irezumi tattoo designs.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

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