Tonawanda News

October 4, 2013

Skin Art

'Ink Art,' featuring work from American Skin Art artists, opens at gallery

By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — The artists involved in the latest Partners in Art exhibition aren’t strangers to having their work on view. In fact, much of it is visible — in one way or another — on a daily basis, and on display in locations throughout Western New York and even the world.

It might be a little difficult to have it keep gallery hours, however.

In “Ink Art,” opening with a reception from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday at the River Art Gallery on Webster Street, drawings by tattoo artists Bob Bieber, Tiara Gordon and Otis Arterberry of Webster Street’s American Skin Art will be on display through Oct. 25. This is the first Partners in Art exhibit to take place since the business’ gallery across the street closed in August.

Glenna Sternin of Partners in Art said similar exhibits had been planned in the past, but fell through. Last year, Bieber approached Partners In Art and said he’d like to try again.

“This worked out perfectly,” Sternin said, “because here it is October and we have all these spooky things up on the walls. It’s a really nice show, very colorful, too. 

“It’s a little far out for us. We’re usually traditional; we have some extreme things sometimes, but these are really different. So it’s different for us, but everything went up nicely.”

The exhibit features about 25 works, all in colored pencil, in the three artist’s three distinct styles. Arterberry’s work in the exhibit tends toward bright colors; Gordon’s, more muted, with Bieber somewhere in between. Themes tend to center on the fantastical and the slightly macabre.

Bieber’s 10 pieces include the larger format “Skull Flower” and “Ship Storm,” with smaller works including Celtic-tinged “Viking” to the downright creepy “Voodoo Prayer.”

“These are what we do in our spare time,” he said. “They’re what we do for ourselves, things we want to do. We’re usually into fantasy and comic book art, just doing fantasy illustrations.

“I try to have my own style. I see in tattoos and stuff, a lot of people are doing the same things these days. I would hope if you look at my work, you’d recognize my style, with or without my name. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Bieber has worked at on and off at Amerian Skin Art for about 17 years. The work in the exhibit marks some of his best personal pieces from over the past 10 years, he said.

“It’s great to be around an environment of artists,” he said. “We all inspire each other, we bounce ideas off each other. I might have a sketch and go over and get someone’s input before finishing it off. 

“We work pretty well together, whether it’s techniques or just style. Years of brainstorming with each other, I guess.”

Gordon has 10 pieces in the show, as well, with work that minges horror with the fantastical and beautiful, including “Grandma,” “Cherry” and her favorite, “Lector.”

“It’s different,” she said of her work. “It’s not your ordinary flowers and happy things. I like horror themes, and I just like being different. I feel like people always get the same stuff, and this kind of stuff is fun.”

Some of Gordon’s work in the exhibit has also been replicated as actual tattoos, while some work is meant to get potential customers thinking about the possibilities.

“I get so many flowers as tattoos; this is stuff I want to do,” she said. “I like to draw to give people an idea of tattoo options. These are not your typical tattoos.”

Arterberry’s seven pieces play with some pop culture themes, including “Cereal Killer,” “Riverbottom Nightmare Band” and “Electric Mayhem” ... which might have viewers never looking at “The Muppet Show” the same way again.

“I see things differently than other people see things, I guess,” Arterberry said while working on a customer’s tattoo Thursday at the shop. “Being a tattoo artist, you do a lot of drawing for other people. I rarely get the chance to sit down and do things for myself. 

“So when I get a chance to do it, I go all out.”

IF YOU GO • WHAT: "Ink Art" featuring work by Bob Bieber, Tiara Gordon and Otis Arterberry of American Skin Art • WHEN: The show runs through Oct. 25. Gallery hours are noon to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. • WHERE: The show is sponsored by Partners in Art at the River Art Gallery, 82 Main St., North Tonawanda.