"Jump" Series

"Jump No. 9" 2017    Tom McManus, acrylic on canvas

We seek and overanalyze creativity--if we could only unlock it’s code, summoning it up at a moment's notice. IDEO, a global design company, based in Silicon Valley, believes play offers a vital role in creativity. They observed that as we get older, we tend to avoid play–especially at work. But they determined that play opens up new avenues of exploration and originality; that it leads to innovation.

Sol Lewitt, the conceptual artist, recommended a similar approach in a letter to the sculptor Eva Hesse:

"Don't worry about cool, make your own uncool.... If you fear, make it work for you-draw and paint your fear and anxiety. And stop worrying about big, deep things such as "to decide on a purpose and way of life ... " You must practice being stupid, dumb, unthinking, empty. Then you will be able to DO!"

Tom McManus 2017  Croton Falls, NY

Interestingly, with his “Jump” series of paintings, the artist Tom McManus uses a child’s recreational device as a method for painting. With a pogo stick dipped in black paint, he marks the canvass with black dots. Painting is literally play, as the artist hops around the canvass.  Gravity, balance, and chance determine structure and placement. Picasso once said that he spent his entire adult life trying to draw like a child. With McManus, he frees himself up with a youngster’s toy to create both amusing and spontaneous art. Whimsy meets process, providing an abstract art that goes beyond mere decoration. Moreover, it is just this sense of play that helps the artist avoid sterility and pretentiousness.

You don’t look at these paintings; you witness them. Join in the fun.

Studio BW.jpg


Dispatch SS-525 recently had the pleasure to attend the 44th Reunion with the crew of my old Diesel Boat/Sub USS Grenadier SS-525…was a nice time swapping sea stories, well those of us that were still somewhat vertical that is ha ha  ...one of my Boat`s former crew, even older, before us, and kindly remember my crew was 44yrs ago!! He sailed Torpedomans Mate stationed in Pearl, did hitches at sea on several of the "Boats" home-ported there...he was well-acquainted with Sailor Jerry and was wall-to-wall tatted by that Great Inker, he told me "Skimmer" = surface ships sailors as they were called...Nor anyone did Sailor Jerry extend credit to on tats = with the exception of Boat/Sub Sailors .... 

The TM (Torpedoman`s Mate) had a great chest piece, said the Square rigged Clipper Ship image that Sailor Jerry took straight off the old label of a Cuttysark whisky bottle. Said, “Crutch, I had to pay that one off over several paychecks.”  Ha ha...as he did not have the dough to pay at one go = he told me Sailor Jerry ALWAYS extended credit on work to Submarine Crews....easy to see Sailor Jerry knew who he could trust and who he couldn’t = and Diesel Boat Sailors he could trust!! These Tats never seen before ha ha = can you imagine at the Reunion with many folks and wives and I am taking my Shipmate behind a curtain have him take his shirt off to photograph the Tats = yeah who loves ya Brother Tom ha ha = who else would do that ....wish the right sleeve had come out clearer it was a Sailor Jerry pinup lady with USN ..the other with Hulas etc...DBF = " DIESEL BOATS FOREVER"




Recent finds from this American Tattoo Master. His distinctive, simple and bold black lines combine with strong colors to make stunning graphics that read from across the room! From The Birds and the Bees and Rock of Ages both full back pieces, to a bevy of pre-WWII Japanese Geisha girls, a Mermaid, Dragon and Roaring Tigers, Mr. Grimm once again proves he is one of the most creative and imitated tattoo artists of the last century.  After tattooing many, including the famous outlaws Bonnie and Clyde and Pretty Boy Floyd, he migrated west from St. Louis, Missouri. He then spent much of his career at the Nu Pike Amusement Park in Long Beach, Calif and finally settled in Oregon.

The Birds and The Bees. probably St. Louis era.

The Birds and The Bees. probably St. Louis era.

Rock of Ages, Nu-Pike Amusement Park, Long Beach, CA

Rock of Ages, Nu-Pike Amusement Park, Long Beach, CA

Pre WWII Japanese Geisha Girls.  Mr. Grimm had a huge influence on Sailor Jerry.

Pre WWII Japanese Geisha Girls.  Mr. Grimm had a huge influence on Sailor Jerry.

Dragon and Floating Mermaid with Roaring Panthers. Date and location created are unknown.

Dragon and Floating Mermaid with Roaring Panthers. Date and location created are unknown.


When I was young my Mother managed the restaurant Nites in the Greyhound Bus Station, this was a time almost all still traveled by bus, so very busy, everyone dressed up to travel then and many soldiers n sailors in uniform traveling here and there...not low class like now..well she was quite busy when the buses were in and she had a small safe spot she could kind of watch me, sitting on the bottom shelf of the large old wooden magazine rack,....when I would look up at the underside of those shelves such a collection of chewed chewing gum you would not believe that always fascinated me ...I was supposed to be looking at comic books... BUT I loved the covers of the magazines = For Men Only ...they were pretty harmless in those days exotic girls in skimpy torn clothing being rescued by Soldiers n Sailors...usually out in the Pacific...I remember well this particular cover...when older I joined the Diesel Submarine Force, Merchant Marines, and married A China Girl just like I had seen on the covers of these old mags....photography and art are indeed mighty powerful things.




A Dab of Ink...more years ago than I like to remember, I was shipping out of New Orleans, this was the "old" New Orleans when it was cool. It was still very Frenchy/European for a city in the USA. The Port along the river was bustling with activity, ships coming, ships going, all over the world, still the old Merchant Marine Waterfront, this was pre-container days so all cargo was what they called break bulK/crated, drummed, pallets of sacks etc. quite colorful if you had the eyes to see the beauty in all that freight from all over the world…and it was dark down there.

Down on Decatur Street along the river which is now touristy and cleaned up...that street at the time I am writing was a tough place ...line of Gin Joints, you could enter one that was very Greek with all that culture, the next German, Latino, Polish, always a South Seas themed bar with a big mural behind the bar with hula girls n Palm Trees...so smoke filled the viz. was nearly zero and the air quality much worse!!...This street was so rough in nite hours that they use to issue you a knife before you got down on that strand....I spent many nites down there myself …it was like a Seaman`s Disney Epcot, I could go from Latino Bars to German to you name it and hoist a few drinks and soak in the culture as Mariners from the ships were from all over and tended to congregate in their comparable countries bars and there was always the women…exotic women haha and plenty of drink, yes an enjoyable time if you kept a good lookout for "bad weather" haha. I had of course been in the Navee years before and never got tatted...I use to many times go with my shipmates we all would get drunk and they would come back with anchors, dolphins, dragons, hula girls, dolphins, propellers, you name it, usually something that identified with their Navy Rate/job, but not me, me I would be clean as whistle as far as Tats went. 

Now back to Merchant Marine days and to Port of New Orleans long after "Uncle Sam`s Canoe Club". I was down there one nite on Decatur...steaming from bar to bar …country to country...I myself was shipping out the next day on a year-long contract…I steamed alone as I did most times and after taking on more than a little rum...passed a small tattoo joint …I walked in, not a soul in there but the Inker....he said want ya want? I said an anchor on my left hand between thumb n forefinger..he showed me some anchors he had drawn and I said hand me an ink pen, he did and I drew what I thought I wanted, what was/is called an "old fashioned anchor”. I said how much he said 10 bucks I said get after it…and it is still there haha. I decided that nite to have a Tat to remind me where I had decided to spend my life = which was at sea…and having been on & VERY fond of the China/Asian Coast I knew that the anchor placed there on that left hand by my thumb would let other Mariners know that was my preferred hangout and it was till this day, I married a Chinese girl and anchored up over there for 14 yrs...yes no regrets there (I suffer bad from "Yellow Fever" as they use to call fellows like me haha ) …now back to that wonderful $10 dollar Tattoo...well here it is...I have ask a friend who is good at skinning to once I go down or near down, to skin it off and tan it and give to my daughter to keep in the family...I don`t want to lose that $10 investment just because old Crutch decides to go bellyup haha.


New Orleans - NYPL - Public domain

The Curious and Remarkable Life of Martin Hildebrandt

Martin Hildebrandt opened a tattoo shop on the Bowery in the post Civil War era and is considered to be the first tattooist in New York City.  Little to no evidence exists today of Martin’s incredible canon of artistry. There are no samples or flash of Martin Hildebrant’s creations that have been found… yet.

In short, the most relevant tattoo artist in history and his exquisite body of work is fundamentally unknown to the modern world. 

Michelle Myles of Daredevil Tattoo did extensive research on Martin Hildebrandt and discovered that “…there was very little information about Hildebrandt to be found online, and much of what does appear is contradictory or flat-out inaccurate.”

An elusive historical figure was Martin. 

Take Nora Hildebrandt, the first tattooed lady who became well-known as a sideshow act in the late 19th Century - there are conflicting reports on her relationship with Martin. She could have been his wife, his daughter, or a complete stranger that Martin practiced his craft on and assumed his surname as a stage moniker. The details are lost in the fog of the spotty and unreliable record-keeping practices of her time. The identity of Jacob Hildebrandt is equally murky. Amelia Klem Osterud, Author of “The Tattooed Lady: A History” notes that Jacob Hildebrandt “…was listed as her brother in a NY Clipper ad, though I did find a listing for a marriage between Nora Hildebrandt and Jacob Gunther in 1889.” The mystery endures. 

Jacob Hildebrandt's tattoos in the photo below are assumed to be Martin’s handiwork. It may be the last remaining evidence of Hildebrandt’s pioneering artwork and breathtaking talent for utilizing the human body to create his canvas; a talent that launched the tattoo industry in the city, and continues to inspire generations of tattoo artists over a century later.


Dispatches from Crutch - Sailing Away

Last Farewell to Shipyard Cove...I took the "Chu Hwa" down for a dip this afternoon, to sea trial her....she sailed really beautiful, perfect trim, and with a slight nudge of "Norwegian Steam” she was underway and making way…mighty pretty she was. Sad thing, I had not been to the Cove in three months time, I have been going there for over half a century and that little section of coast on St. Joe Bay was all natural just as it had been when I first visited Aunt Zola & Capt. Fred so many years ago.

Aunt Zola would not let a bush be cut they were all God`s flowers = yes weeds & all...and it was a beautiful spot. Well, in my absence the city has seen fit to cut down all the foliage and dump sand in there to make it part of the new style walking park. Now all the small creatures that made that small strand their home are evicted and must look for shelter elsewhere, yes a shame....I will miss going there but will never go back ....today my last trip.

That’s my newest toy boat I have built from solid pine wood, i named it Chu Hwa after my Mother in Law.

Crutch Sailing


Hartley was the first modernist American painter. He abstracted nature -  waves, rocks, clouds into block and balloons. He pre-dated Piccasso who got all the credit for abstracting shapes in nature. 

He said it took four years to figure out how to paint the mountains; he really got it though. Clouds dance in the sky as waves thunder over dragon-tooth rocks. He painted with Der Brucke in Berlin, Kirschner, Schmidt-Rotluff… Hartley got the blacks from Beckman's Grosse Schwartz lines. Waves explode on shore like Winslow Homer. We went with noted art critic Gerrard Haggetry. It was his third visit. Not many exhibits can hold interest for that long. Hartley is resonating with kids also. Many millennials were standing in groups in front of his paintings. The other galleries with typical contemporary construction type art were completely vacant; his exhibit was packed. For us, the only big let down were the figures. The arms looked like over-stuffed sausages and there is something going on in all the portraits with the left side of the subject. Looks like they slept wrong or got broadsided by a wagon back in the day. The left is always mush cramped in, and not in a El Greco mannerism. Just not lining up and in a bad wonky way. Not a cool folk art untrained eye as we know he can draw, but just awkward. Just because it's in a museum does not make it good. 

The landscapes are brilliant, American master, no European mannerisms like the golden section composition device. Mr. Hartley often just blobs something in the center with stunning success.

Artists like Milton Avery and Philip Guston went to school on this guy. A must see show! 


945 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10021

Closed Monday

Tuesday–Thursday: 10 am–5:30 pm

Friday and Saturday: 10 am–9 pm

Sunday: 10 am–5:30 pm


The History of Tattoos in New York, from Bowery Sensation to Banned Art

The New-York Historical Society explores three centuries of Gotham’s relationship to the tattoo through vintage images, electric pens, and live demonstrations.

ALLISON MEIER, APRIL 6, 2017, hyperallergenic.com

Tattooing in New York has been a sideshow attraction, a banned underground practice, and an elite society trend. Performers in the early 1900s Bowery dime museums boasted wild tales of forced tattoos at the hands of “Indians,” while in the late 19th century, they were a fad with fashionable ladies, who got Japanese-style dragons and flowers inked in discreet places. Thomas Edison pioneered an electric pen in 1875, supposedly trying out some dots on himself in the process (although it was intended for reproducing documents). Then, just under a century later, in 1961, the city’s health department declared that it was “unlawful for any person to tattoo a human being.” The rule referenced several cases of Hepatitis B, but was likely meant to smooth the city’s rough edges ahead of the 1964 World’s Fair — never mind that the fully tattooed Betty Broadbent had been a star in the beauty pageant of the 1939 World’s Fair. Tattooed New York at the New-York Historical Society explored this complex history chronologically, emphasizing Gotham’s centrality in the development of the medium.

The exhibition, organized by Assistant Curator of Exhibitions Cristian Petru Panaite, opens with the indigenous tattoo traditions of New York, visualized through a group of 1710 mezzotints called “The Four Indian Kings.” Created by British printmaker John Simon after the work of John Verelst, they depict three Mohawk and one Mohican who went to London to ask for support for their tribe’s interests. The emissaries were treated more as a cultural sensation than a persuasive political force, unfortunately, and Simon’s prints were one of many responses to their unfamiliar appearance, including their tattoos. While I would have loved to learn more about the practice in the 18th-century United States, Tattooed New York then leaps offshore to the sea, where bored 19th-century sailors inked each other with good luck charms and scantily clad ladies. When they returned to ports like New York, they sometimes displayed their tattoos for money, or even set up shop.

Later, in the Civil War era, tattoos became popular with soldiers as a way of posthumous identification, a practice taken up by the New York–based Martin Hildebrandt. (He went on to ink Nora Hildebrandt, believed to be the first professional tattooed woman.) After Tattooed New York reaches the turn of the 20th century, its timeline gets tighter, and the individual characters that propelled the art, more distinct. Some tattoo artists, such as Samuel O’Reilly, inventor of the electric rotary pen and the first to open a mechanized tattoo shop in 1898, concentrated around the Bowery, while others gathered in Coney Island. Japanese artists arriving in the city introduced new inks and styles, with rice paper stencils giving way to acetate in the early 1900s. Sometimes a phonograph needle was used to trace a pattern, until the photocopier emerged in the 1980s.

Many of the early artists and their customers were men, yet Tattooed New York includes a series of cabinet cards of influential tattooed ladies. Some, including Irene Woodward, who had over 400 designs on her skin, told elaborate stories of being forcibly inked “by Indians” — a mythical story that went back to the 1850s and Olive Oatman, whose face tattoos, a mark of her status among the Mohave people, were sensationalized. Other women were tattoo artists themselves, like Trixie Richardson, who gave thousands of 1920s women their own subtle butterflies and forget-me-nots.

The 1961 tattoo ban, which endured until 1997, sent the parlors underground. On view is a 1962 window shade of flash designs from Tony D’Annessa’s tattoo shop on West 48th Street; he could quickly pull it up, as if he were the owner of a Prohibition speakeasy hiding its booze. During the time of the ban, tattoos also paradoxically started to get mainstream appreciation, appearing in exhibitions and supporting the public’s fascination with the art.

That fascination continues: at this moment, New York is flush with vintage tattoo exhibitions. The South Street Seaport Museum is tracing the “maritime roots of modern tattoo” through the early 20th-century work of Gus Wagner, and Ricco Maresca Gallery is exhibiting the midcentury tattoo art of Rosie Camanga, who moved from the Philippines to Honolulu right before World War II. Tattooing, of course, reaches far beyond New York; even Ötzi the Iceman, who died somewhere around 3105 BCE, has tattoos. But Tattooed New York demonstrates how the city’s legacy of international exchange and constant possibilities for self-metamorphosis have generated a unique style and tattoo culture. Fittingly, the exhibition’s three centuries of history culminate with contemporary art installed in a gallery that hosts live tattoo demonstrations on selected Fridays and weekends (the schedule is available online). There, visitors can witness the transformation of skin into canvas.

Samuel O’Reilly, “Eagle and shield” (1875–1905), watercolor, ink, and pencil on paper (collection of Lift Trucks Project)

Samuel O’Reilly, “Eagle and shield” (1875–1905), watercolor, ink, and pencil on paper (collection of Lift Trucks Project)

Irving Herzberg, “Tattoo shop of ‘Coney Island Freddie’ just prior to New York City’s ban on tattooing” (1961), digital print (courtesy Brooklyn Public Library)   

Irving Herzberg, “Tattoo shop of ‘Coney Island Freddie’ just prior to New York City’s ban on tattooing” (1961), digital print (courtesy Brooklyn Public Library)


When you read it you will know. This is for you.

A collection of poems by Kayla Milanes


All I see is sunflowers and white roses and Lily’s 

and railroad tracks

and there are white haired women singing “there will be days like this”

where the concrete don’t shine and the sidewalk cracks

singing “Young folk don’t know nothing bout love”

Like “There’s got to be days like this first”

There got to be days like this so you know you’re alive, child

so that young fool don't make you think he’s the reason

White haired women, they said there’d be days like this when all you got is the ride home

until the sun don’t shine on the things you once needed it to


“Save it for yourself”

Your mother’s hips did not stretch and her back break in half 

for you to give your body to a boy who does not worship it


“Stop looking”

Behind the sugar coating and the salt covered rims there is uneasiness

There is cracked paint

There is no beauty here 

Stop looking


“honor yourself first”

There will be times that your mind is a war zone that you cannot conquer

and your body is a dead soldier on the battlefield

You will lose your pride and your honor and there will be no one watching

There will be no flag spread for you

No memorial in your honor

You must clap for yourself


“Self explanatory”

Teaching a man how to love you is like teaching your body how to breathe

You shouldn't have to


“Your mother should've told you this"

You do not deserve any less than a heart that will break outside of its bones for you



My mother

with her cocoa covered skin and charcoal coated hair

is the first home I have ever planted my wet soil covered toes in


“No one can help you”

You are sad

You are a boneless body begging for someone to hold you up straight

You can’t even hold yourself up without collapsing into your own weathered skin

You can’t rise

You never could


“What it means to me”

To be loved is to be looked at like you are light

Like you are brighter than any shadow this cold world has tried to cast you in


“That is the only way you will feel whole”

Find someone who loves the parts of you 

you didn't know how to on your own


“It’s not over yet”

You are a crooked painting

Or maybe a crooked smile

Or a half healed scar

You are only trying the best you can

Keep trying


“What it should've been”

Love is not boastful

It is not loud or obscene

It is small

It is a hand or a ring finger

Anything you can hold onto

Anything you can fit into your pocket for the days you are not sure

On the days where your head beats louder than your heart

When your heart seems too small to feel its own beat this love will be a reminder

A soft whisper for when even your hands are too broken to feel it


About Kayla Milanes:
"I'm a 20 year old girl from a small town who writes for the people who need to hear it. Who will feel something, read my poems and understand." 



Ink We Get - Part the Third

Tattooing Was Illegal in New York City Until 1997

The New-York Historical Society’s newest exhibit delves into the history of the city’s once-turbulent ink scene

By Jennifer Nalewicki

Smithsonian.com, February 28, 2017

In 1961, it officially became illegal to give someone a tattoo in New York City. But Thom deVita didn’t let this new restriction deter him from inking people. The day after it was put into law, the tattoo artist quietly opened the doors of his tattoo shop in Alphabet City, then one of the grittiest neighborhoods in the area. He limited himself to just five clients per day, working late at night when many other people were asleep. While these may seem like temporary measures for such a vibrant city that seldom sleeps, it wouldn’t be until 1997—36 years later—that it would finally lift the ban.

This is just one of the many interesting facets of the city’s storied ink history covered in “Tattooed New York,” an exhibition dedicated to epidermal art and its history that is on display through April 30 at the New-York Historical Society Museum and Library. The show contains more than 250 objects, artworks, photographs, videos and other documents stretching from the early 1700s to now, including Thomas Edison's electric pen, the percusor to the tattoo gun, and a Norman Rockwell oil painting of a man getting inked.

So what exactly caused the city to crack down on tattoos in the first place? After all, isn’t New York City where people go to express their individuality—and arguably, what better way is there to do so than by getting a tattoo?

“From the research I’ve done and the tattoo artists I’ve met from that era, there are various reasons [behind] why the ban took place,” Cristian Petru Panaite, assistant curator of exhibitions at the historical society, tells Smithsonian.com. “[The city claimed that there was] an outbreak of hepatitis B, while others suspected it was because the city wanted to clean up before the [1964] World’s Fair. There’s also supposedly a love story involving a city official and one of the tattooer’s wives, and that kind of turns into a personal vendetta.”

Panaite organized the exhibition in chronological order, beginning with Native Americans, specifically the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) tribe, who resided on the same land where the city now sits. Tribal members believed that tattoos had healing powers and provided protection from evil, and they would apply them by cutting into the skin and sprinkling soot or crushed minerals into the wound. They also used tattoos as a form of identification, a common thread that comes up several times throughout the exhibit.

Sailors, for example, another group of tattoo aficionados, started getting their initials inked onto their skin at some point in the 1700s. These distinctive tattoos were then recorded in their personal Seamen’s Protection Certificates, which were used as identification and to help stave off impressment. Fast forward to 1936, the year in which the U.S. government introduced Social Security Numbers, and some citizens came up with a clever way to remember their information.

“People were trying to figure out what to do with their numbers, and the government told people to keep them safe,” Panaite says. “So quite a few people thought the safest place would be on their skin.”

One piece of history that is often overshadowed, and on which the exhibition focuses, is the popularity of tattoos among women. During the Victorian era, fashionable women would discreetly invite tattoo artists to their homes to get inked, often commissioning designs in areas of their bodies that could easily be hidden, such as on a wrist, which could be covered by a bracelet. The famous New York writer Dorothy Parker, for example, had a small blue star tattooed on the inside of her bicep. A report by the now defunct newspaper New York World even claimed that by 1900 more women than men in New York City sported tattoos. And the popularity only grew from there.

Soon, more visibly tattooed women began working on the sideshow stage in places like Brooklyn's Coney Island and at dime museums along the Bowery, flaunting their bodily canvases. It was not only a way for them to make a living, but also, Panaite argues, a source of empowerment.

“Over the years, the story of the tattoo industry has been more male-centric,” Panaite says. “But I noticed in my research that women kept popping up and were making these strong statements.”

Panaite refers to Mildred (Millie) Hull, born in 1897 and said to be the first woman to open a tattoo shop on the Bowery. For practice, Hull would tattoo herself, eventually acquiring more than 300 such inks.

Today, tattoos are no longer seen as the taboo that they once were, and have become firmly planted within American society. Everyone from teachers to lawyers to museum curators sport them (yes—Panaite admits to getting two while curating the show). New York City is home to more than 270 tattoo studios today, and as part of the exhibition, the historical society has invited several tattoo artists to conduct live demos as part of the show.

"You get to see artwork being made," Panaite says. "It's pretty amazing."

And after seeing the exhibition, you too may be inspired to get inked.



time.com Olivia B. Waxman, February 28, 2017

Getting tattoos can be painful, but did you know they were partly invented to treat pain? In the mid-18th century, Native American women tattooed themselves to alleviate toothaches and arthritis, similar to acupuncture.

New York City is considered the birthplace of modern tattoos because it's where the first professional tattoo artist Martin Hildebrandt set up shop in the mid-19th century to tattoo Civil War soldiers for identification purposes, and it's where the first electric rotary tattoo machine was invented in 1891, inspired by Thomas Edison's electric pen. So it's fitting that the city is currently home to two separate exhibitions on the history of the art. Tattooed New York, from which the fact above is drawn, documents 300 years of tattooing at the New-York Historical Society. At the same time, with The Original Gus Wagner: The Maritime Roots of Modern Tattoo, the South Street Seaport Museum dives into the maritime origins of tattoos by showcasing the life of the sailor and sideshow star Gus Wagner, whose 800 tattoos earned him the title of the most tattooed man in America at one point and who was one of the first sailors to see that there was money to be made in tattooing.

In English, the word "tattoo" has late-16th century origins. Somewhat ironically, in the United States their history among indigenous peoples goes back even earlier than that — but, though the idea was already widespread on American soil, it would take voyages to the other side of the world to turn the tattoo into a mainstream American concept.

One of the earliest images of a tattooed person is of the King of the Maquas (the Mohawk tribe) whose chest and lower part of his face are covered in black lines, as seen in The Four Indian Kings, a portrait series painted when Mohawk and Mohican tribal king traveled to London in the early 18th century. Another is a 1706 pictograph by a Seneca trader that represents his signature tattoos — the one of a snake on his face and one with a bird, a symbol of freedom. At this point in American history, indigenous people often sported tattoos representing battle victories or protective spirits, of which the bird was one example, according to New-York Historical Society curator Cristian Petru Panaite (who sports a tattoo of his U.S. naturalization date).

But it was during voyages to the South Pacific led by explorers like James Cook and William Bligh that Western sailors began to learn about traditional Polynesian pictographic tattoos. Before long, they were getting inked — sometimes with the name of a particular ship or their birthdates, or to mark the first time they crossed the equator or rounded Cape Horn or the Arctic Circle. (The word "tattoo" also comes from Polynesian sources.) The common anchor tattoo was meant to signify stability and to safeguard them from drowning, and is also thought that some got tattoos of pigs and roosters on their feet for the same reason because legend has it those animals rush to land. "Sailors are a superstitious lot," says Capt. Jonathan Boulware, executive director of the South Street Seaport Museum.

Eventually, the spread of tattooing among sailors led to the spread of the concept among landlubbers too.

"Tattooing in the U.S. started along the East Coast and West Coast and then worked its way inland," says Boulware, who points out that the same goes for " how any new thing came to any place" back then.

It was in the Victorian 19th century that they became a fashion statement for socialites — "a fashionable flirt with the exotic," as the N-YHS exhibit puts it. Ever conscious about what the British royalty were up to, New York's high society decided to get tattoos after hearing that Britain’s Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) had gotten body art during an 1862 trip to Jerusalem, while his sons Prince Albert and Prince George (future King George V) got dragons inked in Japan by Hori Chyo, an artist known as "the Shakespeare of tattooing.”

But, though the royals who set the trend were men, many of those who picked up the idea on the other side of the pond were women. These women wouldn't be seen at tattoo parlors; tattoo artists would make house calls. Ads would often characterize body art as costing as much as a fine dress but not as much as fine jewelry. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's mother, Lady Randolph Churchill, had a snake tattoo on her wrist that could be hidden by bracelets when necessary. The New York World, reports the Historical Society, placed the percentage of fashionable NYC ladies who were inked at the turn of the century around three-quarters. Trendy designs of the time included butterflies, flowers and dragons.

Nor were those socialites the only women getting tattoos. In the mid-19th century and the early 20th century, women who flaunted their colorful body art could make a living at circuses or sideshows. And, though those shows got a bad reputation for exploiting women, who did often participate in strip-teases to show up their ink, Panaite argues that they actually offered women a rare opportunity for economic independence and fame at a time when job opportunities were limited. (The exhibit points to Betty Broadbent, one of the 20th century’s most photographed tattooed women, as an example of this phenomenon.) Though many early sideshow performers told stories about how their tattoos had been forced upon them during kidnappings — for example, one Nora Hildebrandt said that she had been kidnapped by Native Americans during a journey West and tattooed against her will — those stories were eventually replaced with narratives of the women's personal liberation and freedom.

"These are women who were business-savvy, who learned how to make a living and profit by capitalizing on this fascination with tattoos," says Panaite. "Tattoos were an early way that women took control of their bodies.”

Many of these colorful women were still being tattooed by male artists, but Mildred Hull (who boasted 12 tattoos of geishas on her legs and 14 of angels on her back) is considered the first woman to open a tattoo shop on the Bowery, in the back of a barbershop. And then there were the tattoos that were truly mainstream: In the 1930s, when Social Security numbers were introduced, people flocked to tattoo parlors to get their numbers inscribed on their arms, chests or backs as a memory aide.

In the mid-20th century, even as musicians like the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin helped make tattoos even cooler, the form suffered a setback in the city, as a 1961 hepatitis outbreak blamed on a Coney Island tattoo artist had prompted the New York City health department to ban tattooing. At a time when tattoos were seen as signs of promiscuity, Ruth Marten, a tattoo artist during the 1970s, says many of her clients were women getting a divorce, including one who told her that she "wanted to be able to change her body to something that her ex-husband had had no experience with." Some tattoo artists moved their offices out of the city, while some just worked out of their apartments until Mayor Rudolph Giuliani lifted the ban in 1997.

And since then, that history continues to evolve, as tattoos have gotten even more common.

"So many people are getting tattoos," says Panaite, "that we will have some really cool retirement houses."



Ink We Get - Part the Second

New Museum Exhibit Will Explore 300 Years Of Tattooing In New York City


A new exhibition at the New-York Historical Society will examine three centuries of tattooing in New York, including the city’s central role in the development of modern tattooing and the successive waves of trend and taboo surrounding the practice. 

Tattooed New York, on display from February 3 through April 30, 2017, will feature more than 250 works dating from the early 1700s to today—exploring Native American body art, tattoo craft practiced by visiting sailors, sideshow culture, the 1961 ban that drove tattooing underground for three decades, and the post-ban artistic renaissance.

“We are proud to present Tattooed New York and offer our visitors an immersive look into the little-known history of modern tattooing,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “At the convergence of history and pop culture, the exhibition will track the evolution of this fascinating form of self-expression and the city’s influence on the phenomenon.”

Tattooed New York will explore early communities of body art aficionados—such as Native Americans, sailors and soldiers, society women, and “tattooed ladies”—and also examine how identity is expressed through tattoos today. It will follow the evolution of tattoo technology, from pricking and poking techniques to machines; track the rise of New York City’s Bowery neighborhood as a hotbed of tattoo culture in the 1920s–30s; share the creative and secretive ways that tattooing continued during the ban; and feature artwork by some of the finest New York tattoo artists working today. 

Among the earliest items in the exhibition are the museum’s Four Indian Kings mezzotints from 1710, featuring portraits of Mohawk and Mohican tribal kings who traveled to London seeking military aid against the French and their Ojibwe allies.  The King of the Maquas (or Mohawk tribe) is depicted with black linear patterns covering his chest and lower face. Also on view will be a 1706 pictograph by a Seneca trader that represents his distinctive serpent and bird tattoos as his personal signature, one of the earliest recorded in Western accounts.  

The exhibition also will feature a Native American tattooing kit used for medicinal purposes and a mid-18th-century Ojibwe ball club with carvings suggestive of tattoo patterns that likely adorned a warrior’s body.

As soldiers and sailors traveled the world in the early 19th century, tattoos served as mementos of faraway lands, good luck charms and protection against induction into the British Royal Navy. Passing through New York, seamen also earned extra money by showing off their tattoos in pop-up sideshows. An early Protection Certificate and a manual tattooing kit belonging to a sailor are featured in the exhibit, along with examples of patriotic and religious art that inspired tattoo designs.

The exhibition charts the evolution of advances in the art of tattooing, many of them pioneered in New York. Martin Hildebrandt, often credited as the first professional tattoo artist in New York City, set up a permanent tattoo business in Lower Manhattan as early as 1859. The trade was revolutionized by Samuel O’Reilly’s invention of the electric tattoo machine on the Bowery in 1891. O’Reilly’s machine was based on Thomas Edison’s Electric Autographic Pen, an example of which is on view. The invention instantly made tattooing cheaper, faster, and more widely available. New York tattooers also changed the way designs were drawn, marketed, and sold. Flash―the sample tattoo drawings that still adorn many studios today―was developed and popularized by Lew Alberts, whose drawings are displayed along with work by Bob Wicks, Ed Smith, and the legendary Moskowitz Brothers.

The exhibition focuses special attention on women and tattoos, from the sideshow era through today. Photographs capture famous sideshow tattooed stars, including Nora Hildebrandt, “the first professional tattooed lady;” La Belle Irene, “the original tattooed lady;” and Lady Viola, “the most beautiful tattooed lady in the world.” A painting by tattoo artist Ace Harlyn depicting famed Bowery tattooer Charlie Wagner tattooing Mildred Hull, the “first and only tattooist woman on the Bowery,” shows some of the 300+ tattoos she created on herself. The exhibition also addresses tattooing as an art form that enabled women to challenge gender roles and turn tattoos into signs of empowerment.

In 1961, New York City’s Health Department declared it was “unlawful for any person to tattoo a human being,” citing Hepatitis B as a concern. The ban sent tattoo artists underground and many continued working quietly from their homes, often taking clients at odd hours of the night. The exhibition features photographs from the apartment studios of Thom deVita and Mike Bakaty as well as tattoo designs from the era, including some made to be quickly concealed in case of random police raids. The work of fine artists who began to explore tattooing during the ban years will also be on display, including Ruth Marten, Mike Bakaty, and Spider Webb.

The tattoo ban was lifted in February 1997. Today, more than 270 tattoo studios are flourishing across the five boroughs of the city. Footage of tattooing, filmed for the exhibition in several New York studios, demystifies the process. An audio tour will invite visitors to listen to the voices of legendary tattoo artists who worked in New York City during the late 20th century. The international reach of New York’s influence on the art world today is demonstrated in works by tattoo artists from Denmark, Japan, Mexico, China, Brazil, the UK, and Italy.

The exhibition closes by depicting some of the ways in which New Yorkers today use tattoos for self-expression and empowerment. Tattoos covering mastectomy scars, for instance, represent a new beginning for breast cancer survivors. Commemorative tattoos worn by survivors of 9/11 are a permanent reminder to "never forget."




Native Americans, sailors, gang members, queers, artists, firefighters, breast-cancer survivors—ink borne by all these subjects and more is documented in this dense exhibition charting the history of tattooing through a local lens. Eighteenth-century prints show the striking geometric tattoos of the Haudenosaunee (known to Europeans as the Iroquois). Accompanying wall text explains that the designs functioned variously to identify their bearers, to commemorate momentous events, and to decorate and heal wounds, themes that recur over the next several centuries of tattoo culture in New York. Original art—pinup girls, flags, pierced hearts—from the tattoo parlors that cropped up on the Bowery and Coney Island, photographs of emblazoned aficionados from every era, short videos, and vivid displays of artifacts capture the evolution of tattoo technology and the distinct styles that have emerged from the city’s shipyards, barbershops, and boutique studios. Despite New York’s ban on the trade, between 1961 and 1997, the city is portrayed as fertile ground for cutting-edge artisans, home to a cosmopolitan confederation of subcultures that embraces even the most radically marked-up romantics.


Ink We Get - Part the First

Love tattoos? This exhibit has 300 years of ink

By Barbara Hoffman

NEW YORK POST, February 23, 2017 

Dorothy Parker had one. So did Teddy Roosevelt, Winston Churchill’s mother and my father, a Navy man.

I’m talking tattoos, the vivid subject of a New-York Historical Society show that features objects, drawings and photographs as well as actual artists at work. (Demonstrations are Fridays from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., Saturdays, noon to 6 p.m.)

Don’t roll up your sleeves just yet: The tattooists are bringing their clients with them. If you’re not squeamish, you can watch.

There’s a lot to look at in “Tattooed New York,” an ambitious exhibit spanning 300 years, beginning with Native Americans, who believed the right markings had healing power, and moving on to today’s mastectomy survivors, who use designs to reclaim beauty after loss.

As curator Cristian Petru Panaite discovered, New York, its ports flush with sailors, became the capital town of tattoos. From its earliest years, the US Navy was awash in ink, its bored and/or inebriated sailors getting themselves marked with American eagles and naked ladies. When, in 1909, the Navy banned bawdy images, local tattoo artists made a fortune covering them back up.

There were even more illustrated men and women at Coney Island’s sideshows and at the 1939 World’s Fair. It was there that people gawked at Betty Broadbent, who had Charles Lindbergh imprinted on one leg, Pancho Villa on the other. There’s even a video here from the Marx Brothers’ “At the Circus,” with Groucho crooning “Lydia the Tattooed Lady.”

Though New York City outlawed tattooing in 1961 after an outbreak of Hepatitis B, the ink continued to flow — albeit underground. By the time the ban was lifted, in 1997, a new generation had embraced the art of self-decoration. What was once a mark of rebellion had become mainstream.

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself itching to get inked: Panaite says he got two tattoos while curating the show. “It hurt a lot more than I thought it would,” he says.

We can only wonder what compelled Parker to have a blue star by her elbow; Roosevelt to have his family crest tattooed on his chest; and Churchill’s mom, a bracelet on her wrist. As for my sailor dad: He was barely 18 when he had roses tattooed on each forearm, a tribute to his mother, Rose.

She hated them.

“Tattooed New York,” through April 30 at the New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West; nyhistory.org.

300 years of New York tattoos: From Native Americans to beauty queens

BBC.COM, 10 February 2017

"Tattoos stand as indelible marks of empowerment," says Cristian Petru Panaite, assistant curator of Exhibitions at the New York Historical Society.

The historical society's latest exhibit looks at 300 years of New York tattoos, including ink on Native Americans, sailors and beauty queens.



Take heart antique dealers of the world!  Just because there are no more sales for pewter, Lionel Trains, Model T's and spinning wheels does not mean the industry is dead. Pier Shows, Armory and Barnstorm shows are all taking dirt naps right now.  But stop all your complaining. You will be fine.  Reset. Look at brighter, more exciting stuff. Like Tattoo flash. Look at the age of the crowd at Ricco Maresca's exhibit of Rosie Camanga's tattoo work. The drawings are brilliant and resonate with a younger crowd.  And they are engaged. The one to watch is the visionary gallerist Frank Maresca. This collection is from Don Ed Hardy (yes, the awful clothing guy). But he is also one of the most respected guys in the tattoo world. He alone set the scene for contemporary tattooists to prosper. He's a Yale educated writer who years ago pointed out that human skin is the new canvass. Movable, time sensitive and site specific, to quote a bunch of artworld buzz terms. He is right.  

Switch gears, put all your 19th century furniture in long term-park-lock-take the key storage. Better yet, keep on walking to the nearest pier and throw the key in. It's over. 

"Let's all go over to Jason's apartment and see his new antique quilt and paperweight collection.” Said no one. Ever.

Rosie Camanga  ROSE TATTOO March 9 to May 6, 2017

Opening Reception, March 9th 6-8pm

Ricco Maresca Gallery

29 West 20th St. 3rd Floor (between 10th and 11th Ave)
Tue-Fri: 10am-6pm, Sat: 11am-6pm

Selected Tattoo flash sheets are available for purchase at ltproject.com/inventory



Always Rosie in New York City

Tino (“Rosie”) Camanga (1910-?) moved to Honolulu from his native Philippines sometime prior to World War II. He worked for a time as a photographer, probably in one of the souvenir photo booths where one could have a picture taken against a painted backdrop of a prototypical Hawaiian scene: grass shack, Diamond Head, etc.—often accompanied by a “hula girl,” complete with grass skirt, provided by the photo operator.

After observing fellow Filipinos tattooing in the many shops in the downtown/Chinatown area, Rosie was granted a part-time job in 1944. He told the shop owner that the job was easy, since the work was all done with stencils; he’d “sketched” his whole life and knew he could do it. The owner scoffed at this and said he’d pay him $50 if he could put on a credible tattoo. Rosie demonstrated his ability by putting a piece on his own leg and was given the job. In wartime Honolulu, hundreds of thousands of military personnel swarmed through the downtown zone, boosting business to incredible levels in the penny arcades, bars, dance halls, government-sanctioned whorehouses, and tattoo shops that blanketed the area. After a couple of years, Rosie had drawn about 400 sheets of flash and left to open his own shop. He tattooed continuously in a variety of locations around the Hotel Street (downtown) area until 1991. After a short hiatus, he re-opened his final shop in a former shoeshine stand on the edge of Chinatown. As business was virtually non-existent for him at this point, he retired for good but kept on drawing.

Sailor Jerry Collins introduced me to Rosie in 1968. At that time, they had the only two tattoo shops on the island of Oahu, situated about a block apart. Jerry realized Rosie’s tattoo ability was primitive, to put it mildly, but respected him for his sobriety and industriousness. Rosie’s tiny shop was overlaid with his distinctive hand-drawn flash, layer upon layer, in a style unlike anything I’d ever seen. My early amazement and condescension at his raw version of classic tattoo design gradually gave way to unqualified admiration. When he began selling off his shop contents in the early 1990s I bought much of his flash and brokered it for him at art galleries on the mainland.

Rosie was a complete original. Humorous and tough-minded, he survived for decades in control of his own game in a volatile honky-tonk environment. A sense of sly humor helped keep him afloat—once he told a health inspector that the powdered charcoal used to apply stencils to the skin came from the barbecue. Rosie’s flash, from early examples (none of his work is signed or dated, but clues exist from dates or events depicted in the designs), segued from standardized versions of classic tattoo designs to eccentric and mysterious scenarios that were his alone. The format of a sheet of flash, crowded with multiple images, or the notion that something might be appealing to someone to wear indelibly for life, were mere jumping-off points for the world he created. He often collaged sheets with images he liked, which he’d clipped from a magazine or assembled from previous designs, which regularly depicted things and sentiments never seen in any other tattoo context. He continued to draw after he stopped tattooing, using the flash format for ever-more unexpected forms. The phrases accompanying the pictures are rendered in the artist’s adopted and imperfect English, often resulting in a hilarious and mysterious poetry of meaning. The overall effect is a wacky mixture of cartoon humor, lofty emotions, menace, and smoldering sexuality.

Rosie’s art anticipates today’s stretching of the boundaries in the canon of tattoo themes. But much “art flash” or actual tattoos by younger artists are often loaded with self-conscious irony and rampant careerism, retro-fishing from a world they never experienced. Rosie was the real thing: immensely prolific, completely sincere, and driven by a passion for drawing that ultimately sought to satisfy only himself. Yet, making his works available to a global audience, far beyond his tiny Chinatown shop, will realize a phrase found in one of his sheets of flash: “I fly from Honolulu to eternity.”

-Don Ed Hardy



Ricco Maresca Gallery, 529 West 20th Street, 3rd Floor, New York, New York 10011

Ricco Maresca Gallery, 529 West 20th Street, 3rd Floor, New York, New York 10011

Untitled (Parrot), c. 1950-80 ink on paper 13.75 x 11.5 in.

Untitled (Parrot), c. 1950-80
ink on paper
13.75 x 11.5 in.

Lego Me Arm, Matey

A dispatch from Crutch, Lift Trucks Project correspondent at large. With many thanks to, "S---t my LPO says."

There is a Facebook page called"S _ _ T MY LPO SAYS " LPO means Leading Petty Officer..They post all sorts of funny and many times not so funny new navy stuff...lots of new sailor Tats. I don’t get them all exactly…such as the 2 Submarine Pin Dolphins modified to the goldfish and the other with vicious dolphins...the Legoland Sailor = ummm = but back in my day there were lot of guys got Hotstuff the Little Devil, mostly guys that worked in the Enginerooms…and the cartoon Magpie Birds Heckle ’n Jeckle ...anyway here are a few new sailor tats to take a look at…

Tattooed Royalty at VIP Party

Lift Trucks Project contributed to the Tattooed New York exhibit at the New-York Historical Society, and had the pleasure of attending the opening. 

“Through artwork, artifacts, photography, oral histories, and live demonstrations, Tattooed New York explores the fascinating stories behind this controversial art form, from its early use by Native Americans to the launch of modern tattooing in New York City at the turn of the 20th century, the three-decade ban on tattooing and the recent mainstreaming of tattoo culture.”

New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West (77th Street) NY, NY 10024

On display from February 3 through April 30 2017 

Bowery paper mache window display, possibly Charlie Wagner’s.

Bowery paper mache window display, possibly Charlie Wagner’s.

A Bowery corner

A Bowery corner

Tony D’Annessa -  In front of his tattoo booth re-created at the NYHS

Tony D’Annessa -  In front of his tattoo booth re-created at the NYHS

Tony D'Annessa's tattoo shop with original window shade flash used in the 1960's. Made to easily roll up if the police came looking for tattooists. In 1961, it became illegal in New York to be a tattooist.

Tony D'Annessa's tattoo shop with original window shade flash used in the 1960's. Made to easily roll up if the police came looking for tattooists. In 1961, it became illegal in New York to be a tattooist.

Artist, Virginia Elwood

Artist, Virginia Elwood

Her arm

Her arm

Tattoo royalty - Wagner (Charlie's Grandson) and Moskowitz (son of Willy)

Tattoo royalty - Wagner (Charlie's Grandson) and Moskowitz (son of Willy)

Brad Fink and Michelle Myles of Daredevil Tattoo with Cristian Paniate, NYHS, Curator Tattooed New York.

Brad Fink and Michelle Myles of Daredevil Tattoo with Cristian Paniate, NYHS, Curator Tattooed New York.

Tattoo flash from the Bowery, NYC

Tattoo flash from the Bowery, NYC

Museum Director speech

Museum Director speech

Circus sideshow banners

Circus sideshow banners

Arthole at DIA

Here is the DIA Art Foundation’s 350,000 square feet of art space that was formerly an old box factory for Nabisco. We suppose in a science-fiction kind of way it’s pretty cool, but ghosts abound as most of it appears as dull as an unsalted three-day-old cracker. One clue is the nearly empty parking lot, but the grounds are wonderful with lovely plantings. 

Michael Heizer’s arthole seems butchered in the middle of one majestic room with high ceilings, beautiful hardwood maple or highly polished concrete floors. It really is a series of deep holes in the floor. From our shallow perspective, construction sites are infinitely more interesting.

Overall, it's a pleasant visit; the building makes it worthwhile. The art is incredibly minimalist with the exception of Richard Serra’s CoreTen scary-about-to-crush-you steel slabs and one other interesting display that we forgot to write down. Rooms of Dan Flavins' florescent light bulbs and strings going up to the ceiling which resembles a sheet of glass? Okay, we get it, but overall about as engaging as someone else's kid’s 5th grade science fair project.

There was a young lady who looked like a lost Bernie Sanders supporter staring at a pile of rubber stuff. Another person walking around the downstairs green light area. We all read Art Forum at least once in college (or looked at the ads anyway). It's okay. We get it.

It's salubrious to visit once every ten years when they change the exhibits. In addition, it serves a purpose; a visit to DIA makes us all realize why we love drawing, painting and sculpture.


535, 541 and 545 West 22nd Street , NY, NY 10011

Tuesday–Saturday 11 am–6 pm


Save the Dates! February 3rd- April 30th at the New York Historical Society

“Tattooed New York” will be on view from February 3, 2017 until April 30, 2017 at the New York Historical Society, with contributions by Lift Trucks Project.


12/26/2016 01:54 pm ET

Weird That Thomas Edison Kind Of Invented The Tattoo Gun, No?

So much cooler than the electric light bulb.

Thomas Edison is often billed as America’s greatest inventor. While the title is normally discussed in reference to things like the electric light bulb and motion picture camera, we’d like to humbly add the tattoo gun to the list.

You see, it was Thomas Edison’s 1876 discovery of the electric pen, the terrifying-looking device above, that was the inspiration for the original electric tattoo machine.

Originally, Edison’s device was meant to create multiple copies of a single image or text by passing over a stencil with an inked roller, which moved at 50 punctures per second, transferring the stencil’s contents to a sheet of paper below. 

As a writing implement, the electric pen was a flop. But it caught the eye of a New York tattoo artist named Samuel F. O’Reilly, who, in 1891, created the first electric tattoo needle based on Edison’s prototype. The device increased the speed and accuracy of a process that had long been done by hand. 

So, basically, brilliant inventor Thomas Edison is the reason your ink looks so damn fly. Maybe that fun fact will come in handy when convincing your parents that your dream tattoo is in fact the product of a genius, historic American invention. You are simply doing your part to pay tribute to an American hero, is that so wrong? 

An original model of Edison’s electric pen is coming to the New York Historical Society in February, as part of an exhibition on the history of tattoo culture in New York City. The exhibit also includes painfully cool photos collected from the 300 year history of permanent body art, definitely disproving your family’s theory that tattoos are just a trend. 

Tattooed New York” will be on view from February 3, 2017 until April 30, 2017 at the New York Historical Society.