Participating tattoo artists

Morgan Alynn: Boulder, Auspicious Tattoo

Teacake Art: London, England, Gilt Moth Tattoo and Wanderlust Tattoo

Harry Catsis: Denver, Bound By Design

Rene Cordero: Denver, Kitchens' Ink

Lindsey Foy: Boulder, Claw and Talon

Alicia Hatfield: Lakewood, Crisp Tattoo Parlor

Brandon Huckabey: Denver, Marion Street Tattoo

Sarah Lu: Brighton, England, Blue Dragon

Gabby Maravelas: Minneapolis, Steady Tattoo

Josh Topher: Denver, Tribe Tattoo

Onnie O'Leary: Sydney, Australia, tattoosbyonnie@gmail.com

Evan Lorenzen: Denver, All Sacred Tattoo

Andrew Milko: Fort Collins, Scrimshaw Tattoo

Jules Wenzel: Hamburg, Germany, juleswenzel.de

If you go

What: thINK!

When: Through Feb. 4

Where: Firehouse Art Gallery, 667 4th Ave., Longmont

Cost: Free

More info: firehouseart.org

Etc.: Second Friday Reception, 6-9 p.m., Friday, Jan 12

Like old jailhouse tattoos, significant taboos of getting inked have faded.


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Nearly half of millennials have at least one tattoo, according to a Pew Research Center study — plus, many even go jailhouse rogue by branding their own flesh with the help of stick-and-poke tutorials, a sewing needle and ink.

A piece by Boulder artist Lindsey Foy.
A piece by Boulder artist Lindsey Foy. (Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer)

There is one taboo that could stand to fade a little more, however, said Longmont artist Grace Gutierrez — some say tattoo artists are not fine artists. Just because the canvas is flesh, that doesn't mean these ink masters don't have serious talent, said Gutierrez.

"Tattoo artists are sometimes seen as kitschy, they're not labeled as real artists," she said. "So it was important to me to display their pieces as fine art. These artists are very talented, they can draw, sketch and paint."

Gutierrez gave more than a dozen local and international artists space on a gallery wall at the Firehouse Art Center in Longmont for a show she is guest curating. The gallery's first exhibit of the year, "thINK!" is on display through Feb. 4. There will be a special reception during Downtown Longmont Creative District's 2nd Friday event, from 6-9 p.m. on Friday, Jan 12.

Tattoos as art isn't groundbreaking, but in the past decade the trade has gained more traction as fine art. Gutierrez, who said the pieces for "thINK!" are works of art by the artists and not an exhibit of photos of tattooed flesh.

"That was important to me, to display their art, not a photograph of it," she said.

Gutierrez was a tattoo apprentice for years before she ventured into higher learning, and she said she's come in contact with some of the most beautiful works of art by tattoo artists. She works as a curatorial assistant at the Firehouse, and "thINK!" is her debut as a curator. She realized Over the course of two years that it's the connections one has in the art world that plays a big role in curating.

Firehouse Art Center’s guest curator Grace Gutierrez hangs art by U.K. artist Sarah Lu for the "thINK!" exhibition.
Firehouse Art Center's guest curator Grace Gutierrez hangs art by U.K. artist Sarah Lu for the "thINK!" exhibition. (Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer)

"I realized that a lot of the professional artists I know are tattoo artists," she said. "So I curated some of my favorite local artists and then dove head-first into asking some of my favorite international artists to participate."

To her surprise, there was much interest and enthusiasm — including from some of the world's famed artists, like Australia's Onnie O'Leary, England's Sarah Lu and Germany's Jules Wenzel, whose piece "is honestly my favorite," Gutierrez said.

A total of 14 participating artists will have art on display, including a big majority from Denver and the Front Range.

Beryl Durazo, executive director at the Firehouse, said Gutierrez has a unique eye for curation, adding, "she was made to do this, she has a talent I haven't seen out of a lot of people."

Durazo, a self-proclaimed "lover of tattoos," said Gutierrez's work on the exhibit has helped highlight the art of legitimate artists who deserve space on a gallery wall. "That's what it's all about."

Gutierrez has her own collection of tattoos, saying she uses her body as a way to carry along her favorite art everywhere she goes.

"I see tattoos as a way of collecting affordable artwork," said Gutierrez. "Nowadays, being a young millennial, it's really hard to be able to afford pieces of art to hang on the wall. With tattoos, it's a way to wear the work you love on your sleeves."

Gutierrez said that tattoos do not deserve the stigma that is often attached to them.

"I have seen first-hand how impressive a tattoo can be, yet still looked down on or judged," she said in the show's curator statement. "I have seen the prejudice that tattoo artists experience, their work marginalized."

With "thINK!," she is putting these artists on the pedestal with an exhibit that explores twists on tradition, abstract work, illustration and the age-old art of stick and poke (making its DIY comeback with millennials).

"It's time to recognize the pace of this intimate art form," the release states.

Christy Fantz: 303-473-1107, fantz@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/fantzypants