Somehow it seems right that an art show hosted by a tattoo parlor would have a quality of lightness about it—not because being tattooed is an inconsequential thing, but because mostly what people have inked onto their bodies are fantasies. As I strolled up and down the long red wall backing Ben Around’s current group show, the air buzzed sharply with the sound of a tattoo needle, along with the bubble of a fish tank and patter amongst customers in the waiting room, trying to figure out what symbols they wanted to permanently sport on ankles or biceps.
Hot wheels! Jenn Rhubright’s shots of classic road warriors (including this shot of a Chevrolet Bel Air, titled “Fins Fins Fins”) share space with wedding photos and paintings at Ben Around Tattoos.
Within this unlaced atmosphere, the photos and drawings on the wall seemed right at home. Two of the artists, Jason Keefer and Jenn Rhubright, offer wedding and hot rod photography, respectively, and share a sensibility of stylish optimism. Keefer trains his camera on the fabrics and flowers of contemporary weddings, producing lush prints with a somewhat documentary bent. A veil winds around a bride’s wrist as she walks, contrasting with the cobblestones of the street she’s crossing; another couple stands straight-backed in front of an old stone house, as unsmiling as the farm denizens in “American Gothic.”
Keefer’s most artful piece is “Skyline,” in which a lingerie-clad bride is silhouetted near a window, the grim office building outside somehow reflective of the artificiality and nerves infusing her preparations. But mostly, these photos dwell in the realm of groovy eye candy. That’s even truer of Rhubright’s work, which focuses obsessively on the shine, sinew and sway of hot rod tail lights and hoods, affirming seamlessly what we already know: Old American cars are hot.
Tanya Claire’s drawings and paintings break the spell. They’re darker, and symbolic rather than documentary: A woman with long hair, made of white patches sewn together, has a needle and thread draped over her body and is missing one patch from between her legs. It would take more than a new tattoo to fix her up.