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Baby Tattooville: Inside The Mayhem

Juxtapoz // Wednesday, 17 Oct 2007

October 5th - 7th, 2007, the first of hopefully many annual Baby Tattooville artist schmoozefests went down in Riverside, California at the ridiculously opulent Mission Inn. The 48-hour event paired collectors, press, and art biz folks with 12 top pop artists for demonstrations, social activities, film, food, and field trips. Present on the artist side: Tim Biskup, Gary Baseman, Tara McPherson, Frank Kozik, Luke Chueh, Amanda Vissell, James Jean, Gris Grimly, Jeff Soto, Lola, Ragnar, and Jeffery Scott (1019). web editor Ert O'Hara and news contributor Brad Martin decided at the last minute to pack their bags and take a little road trip to participate. Ert brought back loads of photos and little anecdotes so you can vicariously enjoy her awkward social moments yet avoid the hangover.


Photos and text by Ert O'Hara and Brad Martin

This freakish red raincloud followed us for awhile as we made our way from San Francisco to Southern California. If that's not an omen, I don't know what is.

Let me start this story by boohooing about how much work I had piled on my plate at the time of this event. I had a major feature due for the mag on Monday that I had barely started writing. My big idea was that I would bring Brad with me and he could go to all the activities, take photos, and generally be enthusiastic about getting the scoop, while I sat in our hotel room writing my feature in peace and luxury.

This is how fancy our hotel room was.

That plan evaporated almost instantly. For one thing, Brad's new to this stuff and felt shy, though as you'll discover, I am no seasoned pro. The thing about Baby Tattooville is that this was the first one. As with any new, maverick idea, the first one is the trial run, and while it was far from a disaster, there was no established protocol. On our end, there was a lot of standing around wondering what we were supposed to do. Saturday's "schedule" began at 9am and wrapped at 1am with only one hour of free time and no scheduled meal breaks. I am heavily dependent on food and coffee and blame this for what would later constitute one of my finer Courtney Love moments, but we'll get to that soon enough.

To be clear, Baby Tattooville did not fail me, I failed Baby Tattooville. Because I had so much to do, on Friday the 5th, I waited until the last possible minute before committing to go... "Shit! Gotta pay rent, and oh crap, gotta drop off boxes here, papers there, mustn't leave mountain of dirty dishes to come home to..." Therefore, Brad and I didn't roll into Riverside until about midnight. We missed the first night's social event, so Saturday morning when we showed up at the first meeting of the day, we didn't have the benefit of the previous night's get-to-know-me time.

The rooftop herb garden in the morning sun

Our view from the fourth floor balcony

Morning at the castle

We got our name badges and itinerary, then went back to the room for breakfast. The next several hours seemed to be comprised of various loose activities involving the artists. James Jean did some life drawings, everyone contributed to the collaboration painting, Tim Biskup signed some prints, Tara McPherson made some prints, Ragnar and the guy from Munky King did a demo about making vinyl toy molds...

James Jean designed the name badges for the event (He has a process blog of his original drawing.) The names were hand-done by a fancy calligrapher. From now on, 47 is my lucky number.

Gris Grimly and Ragnar at the Saturday morning panel intro meeting

Baseman showing off Biskup's print

Biskup signing prints

A close up of Tim Biskup's print

Here Frank Kozik entertains Munky King's Dave Bondi, his wife and their daughter with his father's advice to drink a lot, ride motorcycles, bed lots of women, and generally raise hell because life is short, etc. Y'know, I couldn't agree more.

Luke Chueh doodling in a sketchbook

A box of Chueh's bear heads whose future includes looking like Sissy Spacek at the prom in Carrie


Ragnar and Dave Bondi from Munky King talking about molds. Mmm, molds.


One of the really neat things about Baby Tattooville was the excellent schwag (we were *laden* with books, prints, toys, stickers, etc on the way home.) Here, all the artists sign the fancy Giclée print with Halloween/spooky-themed artwork from each participating artist.

Brad missed the misses and wore out his cellphone battery before noon.

A bronze cherub tries to warn me...

Early work on the collaboration painting that would later be Giclée-printed on canvas and given to each attendee.

Baseman adding to the group collaborative effort

Biskup on the collab

James Jean's addition

Riverside native, now current Los Angelino, Lola getting up on a the collab

One of Tara McPherson's screens as she gets ready to make her prints

Screenprinting steps on display

Her high-tech silkscreen set-up

Tara and her printing posse

Explaining some idiosyncratic detail I'll never remember

The final McPherson print

Tara's prints drying on the chairs in lieu of a drying rack

James Jean doing life drawings... there was a naked lady there, but she was pretty blurry in our photos, so you'll have to accept James' drawings as evidence.

James Jean attempts to beat the number of Tara's prints with individually hand-rendered life drawings

About 4pm, we all hopped on a tour bus and went to Jeff Soto's studio for a visit...

Awesome artist and Hi-Fructose guy Attaboy says, "Hey man, what's up?" to Jeff Soto at his studio

The beginning stages of a future Soto masterpiece

That piece in the corner is the work of Jeff's daughter, Shannon Daisy

Baseman went nutters and threatened the crowd with empty boxes.

Mr. Soto in his studio. Jeff is one awesome down-to-earth dude.

A few of Jeff's favorite things: a Keep-A-Breast cast painted by Albert Reyes, Jeremy Fish's "Bunnyvan", Darth Vader, and Heineken.

Jeff's band saw festooned with social commentary and a booby sticker

Here is the door to Jeff's office. I think he needs more stickers.

Brad showing off his true love of Soto's art

I'm not sure if this was planned, but several of the artists crowded around Jeff's workbench to paint simultaneously... which is why everyone and their dog are taking pictures.

Soto sketches on the wall

Back on the bus, heading to Palm Spring's M Modern Gallery for Joe Ledbetter's solo show, we were treated to "Show and Tell with Gary Baseman". This was planned; it was on the itinerary anyway, but when it came down to it, there was no point, just Gary telling us his life story (which was pretty interesting, actually), making fun of everyone's divorce, and passing around his sketchbooks.

"Death Takes a Bath" by Jaclyn Presant, the side solo show at M Modern

Luke Chueh and heavenly creature, artist Korin Faught. Sorry about the blurry photo. At this point in the evening, I was feeling pretty sick. We didn't have dinner and the hour-long bus ride had given me the motion sickness.

Joe Ledbetter

Joe Ledbetter

Joe Ledbetter

Joe Ledbetter

The obligatory gallery shot at M Modern Gallery

This is where we return to the story of Ert, sans photos. I got some Pepto and fizzy drink at the corner store and began to recover from belly hell. We all rode the bus back to the Inn, with hilarious commentary from Tim Biskup and a partial viewing of The Treasures of Long Gone John. Upon our return, we all convened for a showing of Gris Grimly's short film Cannibal Flesh Riot. Since I was feeling better, and was tired of being too shy to talk to anyone besides Brad, I came up with the brilliant idea to drink a Manhattan. The movie was really good: hilarious, unique, beautifully shot, and very impressive for a low-budget effort by Gris and a few pals. Afterward, the magic of booze-based courage allowed me to go chat up Gris Grimly's girlfriend about the movie, finally introduce myself to Tara McPherson, and find out where the afterparty was. Since one Manhattan had worked out so well, I thought another would be a great idea.

There was a small gathering in someone's suite that we found our way to after the movie. Here I augmented my dinner of a bag of pretzels and a chocolate chip cookie with a mini-box of Nerds, and yet another drink. After that, I believe I went for a walk, ended up in yet another suite... there was a hat... and someone passed around a jazz cigarette... I think I started proselytizing about fighting global warming... and then I couldn't find my purse, which made me nearly hysterical (I'd smartly left it in my room.) A nice girl walked me back to my room where I spent half the night in the bathroom doing what you do when you've drunk WAY too much on a virtually empty stomach.

The next day was a horrible, hateful blur of agony and embarrassment, except when I *finally* introduced myself to Jeff Soto in the check-out line. He is so nice! Mercifully, Brad drove us back to the Bay Area, shaving a good hour off the time I made on the way there. We talked about how shy we'd been, how awkward it felt to approach artists and fellow attendees - though every single person we did talk to was completely awesome and friendly. We both agreed that if we'd been there alone, we would have probably socialized more because we wouldn't have had each other to hang back with. Lesson learned.

They're having another Baby Tattooville next year, limiting participation to 50 people instead of this year's 100. I think it's a great idea what they're doing. The intended audience for Baby Tattooville this year was collectors, but the event seemed to work best for people who run pop/lowbrow/underground art businesses. There are more than a few independent publishers, print shops, and art toy/book/clothing stores with dedicated gallery space. Those are the people who could really benefit from an event like this. Next year's Baby Tattooville experience can only improve from the trials and tribulations of this year's (hopefully for myself as well!)

Related links:

Professional photographer, and total sweetheart, Justin Winokur took a ton of way-better photos than I did - they're online here.

Lola posted her photos from the weekend too,

Kid Robot founder Paul Budnitz recently posted this interview with Frank Kozik on his blog,

Ragnar posted really nice photo of all the goodies, here.

More info and details for next year at


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