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As his upcoming show at NYC’s Joshua Liner gallery quickly approaches in just a couple weeks, Shawn Barber (featured) recently sat down with AM for a quick discussion on the art of getting, giving and painting tattoos. AM: Since we last saw you in San Francisco, you’ve moved down south to Los Angeles, how’s that going? AM : The mainstream acceptance and popularization of tattoo culture saw a recent spike with the commercialization of Don Ed Hardy’s work by Christian Audigier and his apparel line. AM: In an interview for the Shooting Gallery last year, you said your first tattoo was of the black costumed Spider-man from Secret Wars 2, when you were sixteen years old.
As far as what makes a tattoo good – that statement could be answered in so many different ways depending on who you’re talking to. If your client is happy and loves that tattoo for the rest of their lives, and it makes them feel better about themselves or helps them get through tough times, you can’t knock that shit.
After being in the academic arena for a while, you really see the business side of the institution and it is an amazing scam. AM : Since 2005, you’ve been documenting and painting the portraits and tattoos of many of today’s best artists including Mike Giant, Jeremy Fish, Natalia Fabia, Sylvia Ji and Scott Campbell to name a few… who’s next on the list?
SB: I’ve painted several fine artists but my interest is going much more in the direction of focusing on contemporary tattoo history and the artists living and working today making tattoos.
SB: I have been tattooed by quite a few non tattooists, and have the first tattoos done by Michael Hussar, El Coro, Tara McPherson, Nate VanDyke, and Kevin Llewellyn. AM : In a studio visit by Fecal Face last year, we caught a glimpse of your extensive skull collection.
AM: You’ve got an upcoming show at Joshua Liner next month, an extension of your Tattooed Portraits series. SB: I think that I definitely have the capacity, ability and desire to experiment more and looking forward to addressing that on a greater level these next two years. A married Catholic high school teacher was caught allegedly posing as a woman on Facebook and befriending his male students as he tried to get them to send him explicit photos. He reportedly used a picture of an unidentified young, white female with blond hair to lure the boys in on his false profile. The local ABC affiliate reports that police found that Reeder had contacted several boys via the social networking site, the youngest of which was 14-years-old.
Reeder has worked as a history teacher at Servite High School since 2008 and served as the assistant baseball coach at nearby Beckman High School for four years before that.
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I’ve worked a slew of different jobs before I made any sort of living as an artist – dishwasher, heavy metal singer, cook, factory worker, machine operator, sign painter, coffee shop grunt, and book store lackey to name a few. I’m a comic nerd myself so I fully understand where you were coming from there, however, a lot of people who get tattoos that young can often regret them later in life.
I loved that thing for a long time- I was bummed for getting it done by someone who did not know how to draw or tattoo very well.
Everyone has an opinion and really believes their opinion is truth – but I don’t think it’s that cut and dry. What drew you into the world of teaching, and what’s been the most interesting thing in transitioning from teaching into the world of fine art?
We are all students and must respect the fact that there is no right way and no one way to do anything and do it well.
For the money and debt, it is not worth it unless you are in the 8% that makes an actual living as an artist after you graduate – those are tough odds. It’s been the natural progression of things, and now, as a tattooist, my passion lies in the life of the community.
I’m actually going to take a year or two off from any solo shows to focus more on the tattoo medium and paint for the sake of painting with no deadlines. Your “Tattooed Portraits: Snapshots” show at the Shooting Gallery last year (covered) featured amongst it’s subjects Scott Sylvia, Margaret Cho and Jo Harrison, who can we expect to see painted at your upcoming show in NYC?
I have the weakness of agreeing to take on more than I can handle at all times and it’s taking it’s toll. Zachary Reeder was a history teacher at Servite High School in Anaheim, California and he was caught by local police as part of the catfishing scam. He has since been arrested for possession and distribution of child pornography and lewd conduct.
The case comes less than a month after Notre Dame football star Manti Tea€™o was revealed to have been the alleged victim of a similar catfishing scheme where a young man virtually posed as a young woman and started up a relationship with the athlete. I was born in Central New York in 1970, lived there off and on for 20 years, lived in Alaska and Southern California for a while, was a student and taught for a few years in South Florida, taught at a couple of at schools in San Francisco, quit teaching to pursue an apprenticeship and tattooing. There are things that work and things that don’t, things that look good and things that don’t. I still teach privately and have an interest in helping people out with the craft and sharing my own experiences, but not taking advantage of their financial security. I think by teaching and talking with other artists, there is always a different way to deal with something and make it work.


Reeder, 30, is married and has a young daughter, but that didna€™t stop him from engaging in the obscene online scheme. Made a living as a commercial illustrator for 10 years, and the past few years painting as my primary time spender and financial supporter. There’s a saying that everyone deserves the tattoos they get and there is absolute truth in that. I’m learning and trying to listen to these words myself, believe me- the tattoo medium is difficult and peculiar.
He reportedly began the explicit hoax two years ago, though police feel that it never went into the real world as he is not believed to have had any physical contact with any of his victims. Tattoos are generally permanently placed on the impatient, impulsive moments of uncertainty (and everybody’s a fucking art director).
I’m in love with drawing and painting, mostly on the traditional side and with that, there is a definitive love of craft. It is the most amazing artist community in the world, with it’s own sets of rules, unspoken hierarchy with a ton of respect for the past. He has since been fired from his role as a social sciences teacher and the school put out a statement to calm nervous parents. I’ve been teaching a bit out of the space and tattooing a day or so a week, while my girlfriend, Kim Saigh, is tattooing and making art here on a daily basis. The business of art is ever changing and most teacher’s teaching art don’t have their hand on the pulse of the present and it’s unfortunately an important part of making a living as an artist. It’s a family of transients that connect with humanity on a daily basis and are permanently tied to everyone they work on.
I’m trying to exercise patience – but I know too many great tattooists to slow that experience down.
As far as Los Angeles culture, I work all of the time and have enjoyed the weather more than anything.



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