Separating The Art From The Artist

Good Morning Friends of Speakeasy Tattoo Los Angeles!

This is Marléna writing to you from another clear, sunny day in Los Angeles. I’ve written it before, but this week at the shop came and went so quickly I barely know what to make of it. We are continuing to fine tune the organization and flow of the shop, as well as planning some fun shop events for the year. I’ve had a little break from tattooing after my first few appointments, but I have some more designs and appointments coming down the line that I am excited to pour myself into! I love the lifespan of tattoos because they mostly last a long time (however long the client is alive for), but they don’t last too long or forever which feels humble and relieving.

A couple weeks back, I wrote a little bit about the American tattoo artist Alex Boyko. Long story short, Boyko, a successful, young tattooer, was convicted for the sexual assault of his former clients. It was a long time coming. Shortly after, some concerning information started to come out about famed tattoo artist Oliver Peck. Peck is a former long standing judge on the television show Ink Masters, as well as the owner of Elm Street Tattoo in Dallas, TX. Oliver Peck is credited with starting the Friday the 13th tattoo tradition. There were two separate issues that came out recently regarding Peck: Firstly, images of Peck adorning black face several decades prior. Secondly, a detailed account of the social dynamics and overall experience of working under Oliver Peck was published by a women who got her start in tattooing with Peck at Elm Street Tattoo. The account highlighted Peck as ranging from being highly emotionally manipulative towards his employees, to directly verbally or physically abusive. Most concerningly, Peck has been accused of choking multiple women with their seatbelts from while they are driving.

This sort of information tends to beg an interesting question: Do we separate the art from the artist? Is it even possible? This idea was first written about by philosopher and critic Roland Barthes, it is a commonly debated topic in first year art school curriculum. In recent years, many important directors, television personalities, and politicians alike have been accused of sexual assault- forcing many former fans to evaluate their relationship to the work of the accused individual. Do the actions of artists affect how we perceive their art? What personality traits should an artist embody in order to avoid becoming entangled in a debate about ethics that could potentially distract from the viability of their work? While I don’t tend to think about it in this way, instead I think there are basic qualities an artist should embody for the sake of it and as their responsibility as an artist-someone who is putting energy out in the world in a physical form.

That’s all for this week! Thanks again for reading!

-M.M

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